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Gauteng High Court Orders Police Minister to Pay Damages for Unlawful Arrests

Published September 21, 2023
9 months ago

Rule by personal interest and constitutional violations were flagged as major concerns by the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. The court has ordered the Minister of Police to pay R30,000 in damages to each of the 11 claimants who were arrested without cause, following a peaceful picket outside a police station. The claimants, led by Wandile Yani, had initially asked for R1 million each in compensation for their arrest, spending two nights in holding cells before charges were eventually dropped.

The SA Police Services, according to Acting Judge B Ford, committed an act of unlawful conduct that dishonored their constitutional designation. The judge further stated that those in authority, particularly in state institutions, are expected to embody the Constitution, harnessing their significant power and influence responsibly to uphold citizen rights. He emphasized the role of uniformed police officers as the visible symbols of protection services, often the first response in protecting constitutional rights.

The court criticized the unchecked, unlawful arrests in strong terms, stating that drastic steps are needed to stymie this disgraceful situation. Additional disappointment was directed at the State Attorney who, despite defending the police in September last year, never proceeded with the case and gave no indication of the actual defense.

The protest taking place at the Norwood Police Station in August 2019 was in response to the SAPS's violent suppression of a previous community demonstration. Protestors were held for two nights and three days before being taken to the Hillbrow Magistrate’s Court, where the State prosecutor declined to prosecute and instructed them to go home. The plaintiffs maintained their adherence to the law and highlighted the violation of their constitutional rights, stressing the importance of holding the police accountable.

In arguing the case, the plaintiffs clarified that the claimed damages were not only intended to compensate for the suffering caused by SAPS, but also to underline the standards of behaviour expected from law enforcement.

Ruling that the arrests were not only dubious but humiliating, Judge Ford slammed the SAPS for malicious and unnecessarily harsh conduct, adding that the plaintiffs' freedom and personal security was severely violated.

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