Minister to pay assault victim

2014-02-18 00:00

THE Minister of Police has been ordered to pay a Tugela Ferry woman R50 000 in damages for the pain and injuries she sustained when she was assaulted in police custody in 2010.

The victim, Tholakele Ngubane, was arrested by Msinga police on October 22, 2010, and charged with unlawful possession of a firearm.

The charge against her was subsequently withdrawn on March 17, 2011.

The police officers concerned denied the assault allegations.

Ngubane testified that she worked in Johannesburg but came home to Msinga for her brother’s funeral when the incident happened. She said she heard a knock on the door at about 4 am and found police there. During her subsequent arrest and detention she said police had assaulted her with a stick, kicked her, hit her and suffocated her with a plastic bag.

Ngubane said she was detained alone in a cell, suffered pain and had difficulty in walking as a result of the assault. When she appeared in court on a Monday she said the magistrate had inquired why she was walking with difficulty. She showed the magistrate her injuries, who then ordered that she be taken to a doctor.

A medical report obtained on October 25, 2010, noted a bruise on her mid-thigh that was “consistent with an alleged assault by a stick”.

Ngubane initially sued the police minister for a total of R200 000 for unlawful arrest and detention, the assault and for malicious prosecution. All three claims were initially dismissed by a magistrate, but Acting Judge Piet Bezuidenhout upheld her appeal yesterday over the assault on her.

He found that the claims she had lodged for unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution were, however, unfounded.

In a reserved judgment handed down in the Pietermaritzburg high court, Acting Judge Bezuidenhout said the magistrate before whom Ngubane first appeared, Hazel Zondo, had corroborated her evidence that she was injured.

Zondo testified that she had observed that Ngubane was not walking properly and questioned her. Ngubane then told her that she had been assaulted by police with a stick.

Zondo said she had seen bruises on Ngubane’s left thigh and her leg was swollen.

Determining the amount in damages to be paid by the police, the acting judge took into account that Ngubane’s injury was still visible three days after she was assaulted. Ngubane was detained on the Friday and on the Monday the magistrate testified that she could see that Ngubane was in pain.

“The appellant must therefore have suffered pain the whole weekend while being detained without receiving any medical attention,” the judge said.

In the circumstances he ruled that an award of R50 000 was appropriate.

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