Mom wins damages after cop torture

File photo: Timothy A. Clary

File photo: Timothy A. Clary

Published Apr 16, 2015


Pretoria - A Limpopo mother “forced” into a prison cell with her crying child and later severely tortured and suffocated with a plastic bag pulled over her face, is due to receive damages from the police.

Dudu Sylvia Mhlanga, 44, suffered at the hands of the police as they wanted to extract information from her regarding residents who were apparently involved in arson.

“I was so scared I urinated in my pants five times,” Mhlanga said in papers before the Pretoria High Court. As she could not longer bear the torture, she signed an affidavit implicating certain people in the crime.

“I knew they were not involved, but I could not handle the torture any longer,” she stated.

Mhlanga, who lives in Limpopo claimed R1.3 million in damages from police. The matter never went to trial regarding the merits of her case, as the police did not respond to the summons against them.

The court delivered judgment by default, ruling the police liable for the damages she could prove she had suffered. The amount will be determined at a later stage.

Mhlanga was arrested on July 21, 2010, as she walked home. A woman stopped her and told her police had raided her house, looking for her. “The police stopped in an unmarked car. I was instructed to get in. I later learnt they were from the serious and violent crimes unit. They were not in uniform.”

Mhlanga said she had no choice but to get into the vehicle, with her child. “On the way to the police station they asked me why I had such a big mouth; what I was trying to achieve and then asked me who had committed arson in Siyabuswa.”

She was taken to the Kwaggafontein police station. Mhlanga said her child cried bitterly as they were forced into a cell. The police then took away the child. The cell was extremely dirty, she said, and crawling with insects. It was bitterly cold and she was not given a blanket.

The next morning, she was taken to an interrogation room where the police said they would “teach her how to talk and which words to use”.

“They said they would make me talk as I was stubborn.”

Two female officers threatened she would never see her children again if she did not speak, she said.

Her hands and feet were cuffed and she was taken to a room where “a big man in a yellow overall was sitting”.

“He had a bag over his head and only his nose and mouth were visible. He said the room was a peace room and would end up a dirty room if I did not do as he said.

“He wanted me to implicate people in arson. When I refused, he placed a heavy bullet proof jacket over my body. He tied my hands at the waist. It was so tight I struggled to breathe and my ribs pained. A plastic bag was pulled over my face, suffocating me…”

Mhlanga said she bit the bag open to breathe. Police then threw fluid into her mouth, which she suspected was acid, as it burnt her. She urinated at this stage and signed the affidavit.

She was thrown back into a cell and dropped near her home the next day. Mhlanga had to receive medical attention.

She is claiming damages for shock and trauma.

Pretoria News

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