Cop abuse costs state millions

Police have come under fire in two Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judgments for failing to protect two women who were in abusive domestic relationships.

In a judgment delivered on Thursday, the court upheld an appeal by Sanela Dlanjwa, who had sued the minister of police for damages of R5.8-million after her policeman husband shot her and then killed himself.

Dlanjwa claimed the police breached a legal duty it owed her when police officers failed to take measures to protect her from being injured by Sergeant Thandikhaya Dlanjwa and to prevent him from killing himself.

Dlanjwa, a mother of triplets, was shot by her husband in 2006 and sustained injuries to her face, chest and leg. The man then killed himself.

Just more than a month earlier, she had asked the local police station in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, to seize her husband's firearm after he threatened to shoot her, but they did not. She had also obtained a protection order against him.

The high court in Mthatha held in 2010 that the minister was liable.

But that decision was overturned by the full bench of the same high court.

Judge Mandisa Maya on Thursday said the court found that the police breached their legal duty to prevent Dlanjwa from being harmed.

They did so negligently and the harm Dlanjwa suffered was a consequence.

In another judgment delivered on Friday, the SCA upheld an appeal by Charmaine Naidoo, who claimed police officers failed in their legal duties to protect her in terms of the Domestic Violence Act.

The court held that the minister was vicariously liable for the wrongful acts of certain members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and ordered him to pay R280000 to Naidoo.

In April 2010, Naidoo went to the Lenasia police station to lay a charge of assault after being assaulted and injured by her then husband, Charlton Naidoo.

A policeman told her she required a protection order from the magistrate before the police could assist her.

However, at the magistrate's court, she was told a protection order was not a prerequisite to lay a charge.

When she returned to the police station, she was arrested, because her husband had laid a counter-charge of assault against her.

"What followed thereafter was a dreadful series of traumatic, humiliating, dehumanising and flagrant violations of the appellant's [Naidoo's] right to dignity, freedom, security of her person and bodily integrity," Judge of Appeal Xola Petse said.

Naidoo was thrown into the rear of a police van and suffered injury on the right arm and right leg with severe swelling.

Petse saidthe police had a statutory duty to render assistance to victims of domestic violence.

In this case, Petse found that police breached that duty by hindering Naidoo's attempts to lay a charge, instigating her husband to lay a counter-charge and arresting her.

In May this year, the civilian secretariat of police told parliament that only one of 156 police stations it inspected was found to be fully compliant with the Domestic Violence Act.

In June, the Women's Legal Centre and the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research wrote to parliament complaining of the poor implementation of the Domestic Violence Act by the SAPS and demanding oversight.

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