File Photo: Clyde Robinson

Pretoria - A man accused of stealing a 3kg bag of flour from a milling plant will have to repay the R90 000 in damages awarded to him by the lower court, after the High Court in Pretoria said he did not deserve the money.

Nelson Sebakeng, a painter, was arrested by security at Premier Foods in Waltloo for allegedly having a bag of maize meal hidden in his bag.

According to the security officers when asked why he had the bag of maize, Sebakeng replied “to go and make pap or to bake something”.

When told that he did not have permission to take the maize, he became aggressive, the guards said.

Sebakeng was arrested and charged with theft.

The charge was eventually withdrawn as the case docket was not at court and the magistrate refused to postpone the matter.

Sebakeng’s version is that he worked as a painter and was contracted to do work at Premier Food, where he earned R1 200 per month.

On the day of his arrest he finished work in the afternoon and while on his way out of the premises, he was stopped by the security.

Although the packet of flour was found in his possession, Sebakeng said he never stole it. He did not explain how it came to be in his possession.

On the day charges were withdrawn, the magistrate pointed out that he (Sebakeng) was “lucky that the system had failed the witnesses” as the State did not have the docket at court that day. He was also told that the charge could be reinstated at a later stage.

After being let off the hook, Sebakeng instituted a R90 000 damages claim against Premier Foods for malicious prosecution. The magistrate agreed that Sebakeng was treated unfairly and that there was no reason to prosecute him. He was subsequently awarded R90 000 in damages.

Premier Foods appealed this judgment and Judge Jody Kollapen upheld the appeal.

He pointed out that Sebakeng was not found not to be guilty of theft, but the charges were merely withdrawn.

This meant it could be reinstated again. “The criminal proceedings instituted against him were not terminated in his favour,” the judge said in overturning the R90 000 damages order.

Pretoria News