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

2017-06-21 16:17
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

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Durban - Bricklayer Sinovuyo Godlo was just 22 when, 11 years ago, he was unjustly accused of rape, shot in the leg by police, and arrested.

What ensued - resulting in the amputation of his leg - was "worse than the worst form of human torture," medical specialists assisting him in his civil claim against the minister of police say.

His advocate, Peter Rowan, SC, says this has been further compounded by a court system, which has allowed 11 years to pass without any compensation of any kind.

"It has been proven that he was an innocent citizen, employed and supporting his family, strolling home [in Verulam] on the night of June 3, 2006, when he was gunned down, based on their unfounded suspicion that he was [a] rapist," Rowan said in a written submission which came before Durban High Court Judge Thoba Poyo-Dlwati this week.

Godlo, who was working on the Sibaya Casino building site at the time, was returning home from a spaza shop when he was shot.

Specialist neurologist Dr Judy Green, who compiled an expert report for Godlo, reported: "Despite his obvious injuries and profuse bleeding, he was not given even the most basic of care, not even a simple dressing or analgesic. Instead, he was left in an open-roof cell in mid-winter without blankets, shelter...He was forced to urinate where he lay and kept like an animal," she said in her report.

On June 5, he was transported to Westville Prison. 

By then, Green said, the poor state of his leg was obvious.

"The pain he must have endured was unimaginable. This was the worst form of human torture. His suffering and cries for help were deliberately ignored. He was helpless and at the mercy of his inmates, criminals, who showed more humanity than prison officials by assisting him and carrying him to the toilet.

"His leg started to rot and stink and flesh began to decompose. Finally, they could ignore it no longer. He would have died in custody." 

'He was given no assistance at all'

Godlo was finally taken to Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital, 10 days after he was shot, on June 13, 2006. His entire left leg was amputated.

He remained there under police guard and was constantly questioned by police about the alleged crime. 

He was discharged about a week later and taken back to Westville Prison. There were no follow-ups or talk of rehabilitation.

"He cannot recall receiving any physiotherapy or occupational therapy. He certainly did not receive any counselling or psychotherapy. He was not given crutches. A follow-up appointment did not happen. He only had one leg and was given no assistance at all. Once again, other prisoners assisted him if they were around, otherwise he had to crawl," Green said.

"He was still in a great deal of pain and was given no analgesics whatsoever." 

Denied bail, he was in custody for a total of 64 days before the charges were dropped.

Free to go, but not able to work anymore, he went back home to the Eastern Cape, where he still lives with his mother.

Summarising the evidence of other experts, Rowan said they would testify about the excruciating physical and emotional pain he had suffered, how his bandages remained unchanged when he was sent back to prison, and how he had to crawl around.

'There is no joy in his life any longer'

He labelled the facts as "atrocious", as was the time delay in the matter being dealt with by the court.

Two years ago, the State conceded liability for damages for the unlawful shooting, arrest and detention.

The issue of how much Godlo should be paid remains undecided, although thus far, the State has agreed to pay him R850 000 in general damages and more than R3m for future loss of earnings.

Future medical costs are still being negotiated between the parties.

"Godlo is a hard-working, diligent young man who was fully employed from the time he left school and had a bright future ahead of him. He will never be able to work again as a builder or construction worker," said Green. 

"The psychological impact of these events has been devastating. He has undergone a personality change, there is no joy in his life any longer…He struggles to even socialise and to see a future for himself."

Judge Poyo-Dlwati urged the parties to reach a settlement agreement. The matter is expected back in court next week.

Read more on:    durban  |  crime  |  court

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