Teenager 'too black to be South African'

Riot Hlatshwayo

The mother of an 18-year-old Mpumalanga boy who was awarded R90000 in damages after police said he was "too black" to stay in South Africa says the money could not have come at a better time.

Kate Ndlovu, of Busyisonto village near Bushbuckridge, had sued Safety and Security Minister Charles Ngakula for almost R540000, but said she was satisfied with the judgment.

Judge Willie Seriti of the Pretoria high court heard that police bundled her son, Shane Mhaule, into a van in Belfast in July 2004, apparently because they thought he was too dark to be South African.

Mhaule was hauled out of a taxi while on his way to Bertharry English Private School in Tembisa, Gauteng, and arrested. The police planned to deport the then 14-year-old teenager to Mozambique.

Mhaule told the court that he was detained overnight with 24 adult men in a cell at Belfast police station. "The following morning I was transported together with some of the men to Nelspruit police station, from where we were to be deported to Mozambique," he said.

All his attempts to explain that he was a South African fell on deaf ears and the police refused to even take down his mother's phone number.

It was only after this journalist intervened that Mhaule was released to his mother, who was hysterical at the prospect of losing her son.

"I can't forget that day. The Nelspruit police first refused to release my son, saying the matter was already in the hands of the Department of Home Affairs.

"A Home Affairs official, himself as dark as three nights put together, even had the effrontery to tell me to my face that Shane was 'too black' and therefore Mozambican."

Judge Siriti ruled that the arrest was unlawful, though Inspector NJ Baloyi, the arresting officer, claimed that Mhaule did not have the "right papers".

Ndlovu, a teacher at SidlaMakhosi High School at Hlamalani, Dwaarsloop, said she would build the boy a house with the money.