Back in the days when tobacco was freely available and relatively affordable, rather than only available in the criminal economy at a high price, Nomochina Gqunta was arrested for allegedly stealing two packets of cigarettes.
Even though the value of what the 40-year-old was suspected of taking was less than R100, she was refused police bail and spent two nights in a police cell.
Four years and two court cases later, Gqunta is R50,000 richer after a Makhanda high court judge decided that she had been wrongfully detained.
Judge Judith Roberson said “an objectively rational exercise of discretion” by staff at Walmer and Humewood police stations in Port Elizabeth would have resulted in Gqunta's release on bail soon after she was arrested at the Pick n Pay where she worked.
“Her address was verified, she had two children, one of whom was a minor, she had no outstanding warrants of arrest, and no previous convictions,” said Roberson.