Woman gets R450k for her wrongful arrest

A woman gets a payout after being wrongful arrested.
A woman gets a payout after being wrongful arrested.
Image: 123rf/ Allan Swart

A Soweto mother who was unlawfully arrested and held in a dark police cell with her 18-month-old twins - without food or a change of nappies - emerged victorious against the police ministry.

The South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg has ordered police to pay Elaine Afrika R450,000 in damages.

She and her husband had been accused of stealing a shack, and without a warrant or any just cause, the pair and their children were arrested.

This comes as the police ministry grapples with the skyrocketing cost of the unlawful or inept actions of its officers, with misconduct claims costing the force nearly R1.5bn over the past five years.

Judge Majake Mabesele found the heavy-handed move by the police was patently unlawful, while placing babies in a prison cell was worthy of condemnation. "[This] clearly demonstrates that the arresting officer had no respect for human dignity," said Mabesele in his judgment handed down last month.

"The arrest and detention were malicious. On the other hand, the baby twins were subjected to maltreatment, degradation and pain."

Afrika's ordeal began on a chilly night in August 2014 while she was walking home from work. Carrying a steaming packet of chips - bought with her weekly wage of R400 - Afrika snaked her way through the side streets of Kliptown.

It was payday and she'd already told her family not to cook because she would be bringing home supper. Before she reached her home she was stopped by the police, handcuffed and bundled into the police car. She found her husband inside.

"Her pleas of innocence were ignored, as were her desperate attempts to get the officers to allow her to go home and breastfeed her toddlers," Mabesele found.

"When they arrived at the Kliptown police station she explained that she did not steal a shack and that it was bought by her husband. She was locked up with her baby twins who were crying.

"Considering the trauma and pain suffered by the first plaintiff [Afrika], not only as a result of her unlawful and malicious detention for 16 hours but also the pain of seeing her babies cry the whole night wearing wet napkins full of faeces, I am of the view that an award in an amount of R250,000 for her and R100,000 in respect of each baby is appropriate."

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