Man waits more than a decade for justice, awarded millions

2017-07-04 17:29
The Westville Prison where it has been reported that 50 awaiting-trial prisoners live in a cell that is meant for only 30 inmates. (Jackie Clausen, Gallo Images, Sunday Times)

The Westville Prison where it has been reported that 50 awaiting-trial prisoners live in a cell that is meant for only 30 inmates. (Jackie Clausen, Gallo Images, Sunday Times)

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Durban - Exactly 11 years and one month to the day he was shot in the leg by police and then detained for 64 days, during which he had to have his suppurating leg amputated, a former bricklayer has finally got justice.

On Monday, Judge Thoba Poyo-Dlwati, sitting in the KwaZulu-Natal  High Court in Pietermaritzburg, ordered the minister of police to pay Sinovuyo Godlo almost R7.8m in compensation and to pick up the bill for his legal fees and expert reports.

Last week, News24 reported on the plight of Godlo who, at age 22, had left his village in Matatiele and obtained a job on the construction site of a local casino.

He was walking home from a spaza shop on the evening of June 4, 2006, when he heard gunshots. He fell down and lost consciousness.

He was taken to the local police station and booked in as a rape suspect.

READ: The worst form of torture - bricklayer who lost leg 'after being kept like an animal' by police in mistaken arrest

Mistaken identity

He was then transferred to Westville Prison where, one expert said, he was subjected to the "worst form of torture" suffering "unimaginable pain" while his leg started to rot. His cries for help were ignored and he relied on his fellow inmates to help him.

Finally, seven days later, he was taken to hospital where his left leg was amputated.

He stayed there, under police guard, for two weeks before being released back to prison, without even a crutch to help him walk.

The police finally conceded that it was a case of mistaken identity and all charges were withdrawn.

Unable to work, he went back home to live with his mother and to wait the 11 long years it would eventually take for his civil case against the minister to be finalised.

Last week, advocates acting for him and the minister agreed that he should be paid R850 000 for pain and suffering and R3.3m for loss of earnings.

What could not be agreed on was what he should be paid for unlawful arrest and detention and future medical expenses.

In her ruling handed down today, Poyo-Dlwati said much of the events - including the fact that he had been detained for 64 days - had been common cause.

'Humiliation and embarrassment'

She said while no evidence was led regarding the outstanding issues, she had been guided by the expert reports which had already influenced the partial settlement.

She had also been guided by the fact that while Godlo would have had to explain to his family and those closest to him that he was injured while being arrested on (what would later turn out to be false) accusations that he raped two girls.

"His right to dignity and his right not to be arbitrarily deprived of freedom were seriously infringed," she said.

"He also suffered humiliation and embarrassment while he was hospitalised. He was under heavy police guard and people must have thought he was a criminal."

She said she took judicial notice of the fact that "conditions at prisons in our country cannot be described as best".

While she had taken into account damages awarded in other cases of unlawful detention, she said she agreed with Advocate Rajesh Choudree, SC, for the minister, that in these matters there could be no "daily rate" - which had also been correctly conceded by Advocate Peter Rowan, SC, for Godlo.

"Each case has different circumstances," the judge said, saying under these circumstances R650 000 was fair compensation.
She also awarded just short of R3m for future medical expenses.

According to reports before the judge, Godlo was a hard-working, diligent young man who had shown initiative and had a bright future ahead of him.

He will never be able to work again as a builder or construction worker.

Further, he had undergone a personality change "and struggles to socialise or see a future for himself".

Read more on:    police  |  durban  |  crime  |  judiciary

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