SAPS bungling costs taxpayers

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The Saps logo.

Published Jun 28, 2024


The taxpayer will once again have to dig into their pockets to pay for police bungling – this time R160 000 in damages to a man who was so tortured by the SAPS that he twice lost consciousness.

Mmadu Ifechukhu told the North West High Court, sitting in Mahikeng, that the assaults on him continued despite the fact that he was crying. He was also kicked and trampled upon.

Ifechukhu, 34, testified that on the morning of November 17, 2018, he was about to take his girlfriend home when he was confronted by a group of people, whom he identified as members of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC).

They asked him about a plasma television set. He denied any knowledge of the TV set, whereupon the police was summoned. Four police officers arrived. One of the police officers handcuffed his hands behind his back. He then took the plaintiff to his room.

The plaintiff said he was assaulted, and strangled until he lost consciousness. Water was splashed on him and he regained consciousness, but he was still lying down. The assaults continued despite the fact that he was crying.

He was kicked and trampled upon. He testified that he was tortured to the extent that he fainted again. When he once again regained consciousness, he was on the bed. At some stage his pants were even removed.

The police officers searched his room but nothing was found. He was then loaded into a combi and transported to the police station at Vryburg. He was also assaulted inside the combi.

Ifechukhu was taken to a car park and further interrogated about the TV set. Being afraid that the ill-treatment and assaults would continue, he ran around in the car park. He was instructed to stop or else he would be shot.

Ifechukhu said a plastic bag was then placed over his head by the police officers, in order to suffocate him. He managed to bite a hole in the plastic bag through which he could breathe. Another plastic bag was then used to choke him.

Water was once again poured on him, this time to wash off the blood.

He testified that he was taken to the police station, where a statement was written and he was instructed to sign it. He was placed in a cell, where he slept on the floor without a mattress or a blanket.

He said he was in pain, especially on his ribs. He received no medical attention.

The next day he was taken out of the cell by the investigating officer and charged. He was given a court date and he was released after 28 hours.

Ifechukhu said this ordeal affected him emotionally. He doesn’t feel safe as he was traumatised because of what he endured at the hands of the police. Whenever he sees a police officer or hears police motor vehicle sirens, he gets heart palpitations.

The police, meanwhile, delivered no plea in its defence of the case. While a representative of the State Attorney’s office was present in court, Judge Ronald Hendricks commented that the SAPS was, strictly speaking, not before court as no version of the defendant was placed before it. The only contribution the lawyer made to the case was that Ifechukhu was in this country illegally as his asylum permit had expired.

As such, according to her, he is not entitled to the protection of the law.

But Judge Hendricks remarked that the onus is on the SAPS to prove that the arrest and detention was lawful, no matter who the claimant was.

In the absence of proof of the lawfulness of the arrest and subsequent detention, as in the case, the arrest and detention was unlawful.

In deciding how much damages to award, the judge said the aim was not to enrich the plaintiff but to compensate him for the unlawful deprivation of his liberty, good name and reputation, as well as the violation of his bodily integrity – R160 000 in this case.

While this will come from the taxpayers’ pockets, they will also have to fork out for a punitive costs order awarded against the SAPS.

Judge Hendricks said in conclusion that something needed to be said about the failure on the part of the State Attorney, a Mr Mmabatho, to diligently represent its client, the minister of police and his department.

“However, it is lacking, to say the least, in this case. Needless to say, this comes at a huge expense to the public purse (Treasury) and it is a waste of taxpayers’ money. Something, that can be ill-afforded in the tough economic climate currently experienced in this country,” Judge Hendricks said.

Pretoria News