Former Bafana Bafana and Jomo Cosmos player Lebogang Morula and three of his friends have each been awarded R90 000 damages after they were pulled over by police and severely assaulted while on their way home from church six years ago.
The four were accused of being involved in a truck hijacking and kept in custody for three days before the chief prosecutor declined to charge them.
Judge Kobus Strijdom, in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, ordered the police minister to pay R360 000 damages to Morula and his friends – Ga-Rankuwa truck driver Aaron Masanabo, Atteridgeville businessperson Gilbert Mokwena and Soshanguve businessperson Mokgokoloshi Leshaba – for their unlawful arrest, assault and detention.
The men said in court papers they were on their way home one night in March 2011 when the police pulled them over, made them lie face-down on the ground, tightly cuffed them with cable ties and then severely assaulted them by hitting and kicking them, spraying them with pepper spray and suffocating them with a plastic bag.
They were taken to the Hercules police station, where they were kept with 13 other detainees in an extremely dirty, smelly and cold cell for two nights before they were released.
All of them had reported the assault to the station commander and offered to identify the police officers who had assaulted them, but they were assured that a “white female” had already opened a case on their behalf.
The men sustained numerous bruises, cuts and other injuries which left them in extreme pain for weeks. They said their ordeal had changed their lives and left them with permanent emotional scars.
Morula said he was terrified and feared for his life during the assault and was so paranoid that he did not want to leave his house for weeks afterwards.
He would have loved to return to the sports industry, but felt that his peers and fans now saw him in a different light and regarded him as a criminal.
“Even to this day when seeing police officials or vehicles I get anxious and scared. No innocent person should ever be stripped of their rights and deprived of their freedom and integrity by anyone, especially not by the one institution who are supposed to protect the public,” he said.