Two men were awarded R3.6 million each after being wrongfully arrested in Tongaat and, according to the judge, violently and repeatedly assaulted by police, North Coast Courier reports.
Siyabonga Latha and Mthandeni Hlongwa were awarded the money by judge Rishi Seegobin of the Pietermartzburg High Court this week.
The pair were just 25 years old when they were arrested in 2006, and spent the next six years and 11 months locked up on charges of rape and robbery.
“They were approximately 32 years old by the time they were released (in May 2013). Six years and eleven months is indeed a long time to be deprived of one’s liberty and personal freedom,” said judge Seegobin.
“It is also a long time to be deprived of an opportunity to establish a career, to strengthen personal relationships and in general, to create a sense of self-worth and well-being.”
He stated that he had absolutely no qualms in accepting the evidence that the two men had been subjected to “humiliating, degrading and dehumanising treatment at the hands of the police”.
Three years after their acquittal, the two men sued the ministers of police, justice, correctional services and the National Director of Public Prosecutions, for malicious arrest and detention, deprivation of freedom, past and future loss of earnings, impairment to dignity and general damages for psychological trauma.
In May this year, the ministers admitted liability and the matter went to trial to determine the amount of damages to be awarded.
Judge Seegobin described their treatment at the hands of police, saying they were assaulted multiple times, first at their respective places of residence and thereafter in the sugarcane fields at Buffelsdale in Tongaat.
“It was here that the barrel of a gun was placed in Latha’s mouth with a threat that he would be shot. It was also here that a rope was attached to his handcuffs and a police dog set on him. Even though he received treatment at the Osindisweni Hospital for his dog bite injuries, this treatment was carried out without any anaesthetic.”
The judge said this type of brutal treatment continued throughout their detention in the police cells, and later in Westville Prison.