Pretoria - A Limpopo cattle runner arrested for theft of livestock after he went to a police station to enquire about the whereabouts of his vehicle, which had earlier broken down along a road, is set to receive R250 000 in compensation from the SAPS.
The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria ordered that the SAPS had to pay Jacob Ngoepe, who is in his sixties, R100 000 in general damages for the harrowing 20 hours he had to spend in a filthy police cell.
The police must also contribute R35 000 towards Ngoepe’s medical bills for the counselling he is receiving after his nightmare ordeal.
His vehicle, which was apparently towed by the SAPS to their pound after they found it along the road, somehow went missing en route to the pound. For this, Ngoepe is set to receive R85 000 from the SAPS in order to buy another.
Ngoepe told the court that his car broke down along a road in the vicinity of the Matlala village in Limpopo one night. He had to leave it behind to try and find help.
He later heard that the police had impounded the vehicle. He went to the police station the next morning to ask where it was.
He was told that his car was impounded by the police and that it was in their custody. He was then accused of cattle theft and arrested.
Ngoepe said he was put at the back of a police bakkie and driven around the nearby villages of Bogom and Skoongesig, where he used to stay. He was in full view of the villagers, some of whom were his previous neighbours and customers.
He was later put in a small cell with seven other people. Two of the men who shared a cell with him accosted and demanded money from him.
They slapped him in the face and Ngoepe said he was terrified. He testified that he couldn’t sleep as the place was dirty and crowded.
The following day, he was told that he could go home without any explanation given to him.
When he asked to have his car back, the police said it was not in their pound and they had no idea where it was.
The police admitted their mistakes in court, including the fact that Ngoepe was detained for no reason and that his car went missing.
They agreed to pay him any amount of damages which the court deemed fit.
In deciding on the amount of damages, the court considered the fact that Ngoepe was humiliated in front of the villagers and that he had experienced a nightmare ordeal while innocently detained in the holding cell.