Pretoria - For nearly a year the office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) sat on DNA evidence that discounted the link with two men arrested for rape.
To make matters worse for the pair, they had to spend 16 harrowing days in a makeshift container as a jail cell before they were released on bail.
The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, has now ordered that Joseph Masindi be paid R320 000 in damages, while Jimmy Bambela will get R640 000.
The two men were arrested in Musina on July 29, 2011, but charges were withdrawn against them on July 3 the following year, after the high Court was told that the prosecution had the results of their DNA tests a month after their arrests. These test results indicated that they could not be linked to the crime.
In addition, they were not positively identified during an ID parade.
The State conceded at the start of the court proceedings that the pair should not have been prosecuted. The only issue the court had to deal with now was how much money they should receive as compensation for their ordeal.
Masindi claimed R4.9 million, while Bambela wanted R5.8m.
Masindi told the court that he was not told on what basis he was being arrested for rape.
He said after the arrest he was taken to a container holding cell which was 3mx10m big. It had one small window and a toilet in the corner.
He and Bambela were locked up with 20 other men. The court was told that the other inmates were hostile towards them when they heard that they were facing a charge of rape.
They were forced to sleep on the wet floor next to the stinking toilet. They had to clean the mess in the toilet and urine on the floor with their T-shirts.
The pair also explained how they were told to lick blood from the floor after one of the other inmates was assaulted, and perform sexual acts as punishment for their alleged crime.
They spoke of their struggle to be reintegrated into their community.
He explained that he did garden work prior to his arrest, but that people were gossiping that he was a rapist and were afraid to allow him near their children.
Masindi conceded to court that he did have an extensive criminal record, but he said he had turned over a new leaf and he was living a crime-free life when he was arrested for no reason and detained for almost a year.
Bambela had a similar tale to tell, and said it was the first time that he was arrested.
He said he was extremely humiliated by what had happened to him in the cell and his family had turned their backs on him. He said he was especially hurt when his daughter came home from school one day and asked him whether he was a rapist.
His wife also kept on reminding him of the charge and his friends did not want to associate with him.
Bambela said he too did garden work prior to the incident, but no one wanted him in their yards any longer following the incident. He is now surviving off his children’s social grants.
The court said it was clear that the State acted with malice when it proceeded with the charges against the pair, even while they knew the evidence showed that they were not involved.
“No amount of money can equate to the humiliation which these two people went through,” Acting Judge PD Phahlane said.
In light of Masindi’s previous record, he received R20 000 damages for each of the 16 days in the container. Bambela with his crime-free record received R40 000 a day.