Police Minister ordered to pay father R240,000 for unlawful arrest | The Citizen

An Eastern Cape trader has been awarded damages of R240 000 after he was accused of breaking lockdown rules and arrested while driving his sick son to a doctor, assaulted and detained by police for 40 hours.

The man, who helped his father with running a dealership in Ntabankulu, had an essential services permit, which allowed him to travel and trade during the lockdown.

In his claim against the police minister in the Eastern Cape High Court in Mthatha, the man said he was arrested at a roadblock on 1 April, 2020 because his 17-year old son, who was with him, did not have a permit.

Their names have been redacted from the judgment. Earlier that day, the man bought stock in Kokstad, KwaZulu-Natal, and travelled to Ntabankulu to drop it off at the store.

While en route, he was stopped at two roadblocks and was required to show his permit. When he arrived in Ntabankulu he discovered his son was “exhibiting symptoms of terrible flu and bronchitis”.

He immediately phoned his family doctor, based in Kokstad, and drove back. But he was again stopped at a roadblock.

He showed his permit and driving licence to a police officer, who refused to allow him through because his son did not have a permit.

He appealed to senior officers at the roadblock, explaining his situation and pointing out that the Disaster Management Regulations permitted him to take his son for medical treatment.

But the officers still refused. The man then phoned a local traffic officer who told him to take an alternative route where there were no roadblocks.

While on the call, he said, one of the policemen came up behind him and grabbed his hand.

When he protested, he was punched, kicked and insulted. When the officer reached for his gun, the man dropped his cell phone and lifted his arms “as a sign of complete surrender”.

He was allegedly pepper-sprayed, kicked, hit and told that he was a “piece of s**t” and a drunk. The man said he then fell to the ground, was handcuffed and put in leg irons.

He was taken to Mount Ayliff police station and charged with assault and interfering with police duties. He was released two days later, after being kept in a small dark cell with 27 other inmates.

In his judgment, Mthatha Deputy Judge President Zamani Nhlangulela said that during cross-examination, those representing the minister suggested to the man that the regulations did not authorise the transportation of sick people across the border and that there was no need to take his son to Kokstad because there was a doctor available in Ntabankulu.

The police officers testified that the man pushed one of them and had begun taking pictures of them with his phone.

This was why he had been arrested, they said. They denied assaulting him. “It was argued strenuously on behalf of the [minister] that the evidence [of the man] was not worthy of credit because he had refused to produce a permit, was evasive, had exaggerated the manner in which the events unfolded and his version of being assaulted was uncorroborated,” the judge said.

Nhlangulela said the man had proved he was assaulted by the police. The injuries he sustained, confirmed by the medical record, bolstered his version.

“In my opinion, the contradictions, inconsistencies and resultant improbability of the evidence adduced by the [minister’s] witnesses are not insignificant.

They were simply not truthful with the court.” The judge said the man had been kept in a cell for 40 hours without a reason being given for why he was not being prosecuted.

“This speaks volumes, not just about the abuse of his constitutional rights, but also the absence of justification for his arrest and detention.”

The court awarded him R60 000 for the assault and psychological harm, R120 000 for unlawful arrest and detention, R50 000 for defamation and R10 000 for legal fees, and ordered the minister to pay the costs of the legal action.

This article originally appeared on GroundUp and was republished with permission. Read the original article here

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