We've got news for you.

Register on SowetanLIVE at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now

Cops must pay R275,000 to man they locked up when he refused to give them R10,000

Dave Chambers Cape Town bureau chief
A Gauteng man has been awarded R275,000 for unlawful arrest and detention after he refused to pay a bribe to Kagiso police officers.
A Gauteng man has been awarded R275,000 for unlawful arrest and detention after he refused to pay a bribe to Kagiso police officers.

Boccaccio Nhlapo was watching TV at home when seven police officers looking for a bribe arrived and turned his life upside down.

Just over two years later, Nhlapo has been awarded damages of R275,000 for unlawful arrest and detention, an unlawful search of his Gauteng home and unlawful seizure of his vehicle.

Johannesburg high court judge Susannah Cowen said Kagiso police officers violated “multiple constitutional rights which lie at the core of our bill of rights”.

In her judgment on Wednesday, she said: “This occurred in a manner which entailed sustained harassment and an abuse of power by the persons entrusted to protect our society, understandably resulting in a profound loss of trust of the police and a sense of abuse.

“That a bribe was solicited and the plaintiff’s vehicle retained ... without justification are, in my view, seriously aggravating features.”

The police argued that damages of R80,000 were adequate, but Cowen said: “The award must reflect the collective condemnation of our society of conduct of this sort which goes beyond illegality and seriously undermines the rule of law, corroding the systems we rely upon to protect us.”

Nhlapo, who was 38 at the time the incident occurred in November 2019, said the police arrived at 10.30pm asking if he was “Thabiso”.

When he proved he was not, they searched his house and told him the chassis number had been tampered with on his 2006 VW Citi Golf. They ordered him to accompany them to the police station.

“As they were leaving, an officer said that if [Nhlapo] paid them R10,000 they would leave him and the car alone. The plaintiff refused,” said Cowen.

He was kept in a holding cells for two days with about 14 other prisoners. “The occupants had to sleep on the floor with dirty blankets,” said Cowen.

“There was no door separating the cell from the toilet and inadequate ventilation. There were only small windows. The shower wasn’t working and there was only cold water in a small basin.”

When he was freed police retained his car, and Nhlapo said he had been told he could not have it back because he had opened a case against the police.

Cowen awarded punitive costs against the police, saying they initially responded to Nhlapo's complaint with “a bald denial” before conceding the merits of his claim just before the trial.

Other aggravating factors were the solicitation of a bribe and the retention of Nhlapo's vehicle.

Nhlapo, who was unemployed at the time of the incident, works as a shunter at a mine in Kuruman.


Would you like to comment on this article? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

Commenting is subject to our house rules.