Bheki Cele ordered to pay North West man R1.5 million after he was detained 202 days without evidence

Police Minister Bheki Cele was ordered to pay damages to a man who was unlawfully arrested. File Picture: Bongani Shilulbane/ African News Agency (ANA)

Police Minister Bheki Cele was ordered to pay damages to a man who was unlawfully arrested. File Picture: Bongani Shilulbane/ African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 15, 2024


A man who was detained in conditions described as inhumane, dirty, and overcrowded was awarded R1.5 million in damages after the North West High Court ruled his arrest unlawful.

Jongile Dan July was arrested near Tarven Makwassie on July 11, 2015 after police accused him of robbery.

Two days after his arrest, he appeared in court and was denied bail due to false evidence presented by police.

He was then detained at Wesselbron police station for 202 days. He described the condition of the cells as inhumane, dirty, and overcrowded.

He was released on January 28, 2016, after the charges against him were withdrawn.

According to July, he was detained in a cell with 30 other inmates, adding that there was no privacy as they would relieve themselves while others were eating.

He testified that the food was bad and the pap they were given to eat was not edible. He said he initially did not eat the pap, but as time passed, he ate the food as he had no choice.

July said he feels a sense of loss as a result of his detention because during his time in jail, his girlfriend had a miscarriage. He expressed was sadness that he could not be there for her.

After his release, he only spent three months with her before she died due to hypertension.

He also lost his uncle and could not attend to his cultural responsibilities as the eldest son in his family.

He added members of the community mocked him for being a ‘murderer’ and songs were composed about his arrest.

Additionally, during his detention, his car was left at the police station and later moved to his house by the police. Upon his release, he discovered that the car's engine would not start.

He said this affected his income as he used the car to transport people and he made between R800 and R900 on weekends and R400 to R500 on weekdays.

He said his unlawful arrest and detention caused him emotional shock and traumatised him. He claimed R6.3m in damages.

A clinical psychologist, Mashudu Malivha, assessed July and gave a report that he suffered from secondary moderate mental and behaviour impairment in the form of depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

She also recorded that July had reached the maximum medical improvement. However, he still had moderate signs of anxiety.

Malivha recommended 35 psychotherapy sessions estimated to cost of R56,000.

When determining damages claimed by July, judge Sandiswa Mfenyana said no proper case was made for loss of income, and he also failed to provide proof of past income

The judge said looking at July’s evidence, he was unemployed at the time of his arrest.

It was further held that there was no link between the death of the his girlfriend and his detention, ...“once again, there is no nexus between his arrest and detention and the death of his uncle,” said the judge.

Judge Mfenyane said what was notable was that police took no heed that July’s rights were continuously infringed by his incarceration.

“Surely, at some point during the course of their investigation, the police ought to have realised that they had no evidence to sustain the charge against the plaintiff. Despite such knowledge they persisted with his detention,” she said in her judgment.

As a result, minister of police Bheki Cele has been ordered to pay July R1.5m for the unlawful arrest and detention.

In addition, the minister has been ordered to the pay the R1.5 million with interest at the prescribed legal rate from date of judgment to date of payment.

He was also ordered to pay costs of the application.

[email protected]

IOL News