A high court judge has expressed shock about the apartheid-style conduct of the police who severely tortured a theft suspect while trying to beat a confession out of him.
Acting Judge Mark Hawyes ordered the police minister to pay R800 000 damages to Welcome Chiloane of Hazyview for his unlawful arrest, detention and assault seven years ago.
Chiloane was at his mother’s house when police broke down the door, accused him of stealing a large amount of money from his former employer and arrested him.
Chiloane was in tears when he told the court of the ordeal, which resulted in permanent ringing in his ears.
He described being hit with sticks, kicked, slapped and suffocated with a sheet or rubber, which was placed over his face and drawn tight.
The police also placed an irritant in a bag and placed it over his head.
Chiloane’s attorney, Coert Jordaan, testified that the police at White River at first did not want to let him see Chiloane, but had a change of heart when he phoned the Independent Police Investigate Directorate (Ipid).
Jordaan could see his client had been assaulted and took photos of him, but Chiloane was only taken to hospital for treatment after a member of Ipid arrived.
He spent a week in hospital and was only released after being granted bail nine days later.
He was charged with possession of an unlicensed firearm and theft.
The prosecutor refused to prosecute him on the firearm charge and the theft charge was withdrawn, only to be suddenly reinstated earlier this year.
Although police flatly denied ever assaulting Chiloane, Hawyes said it was clear they had lacked sufficient information to arrest him and pinned their hopes on extracting a confession through torture.
He said Chiloane was healthy before his arrest and would not have had to spend a week in hospital had he not been assaulted.
The judge said he was shocked at the conduct of the police, which transported him back to the dark days of apartheid when the security police acted with impunity and trampled on the rights of its citizens.
“The conduct of the police in this matter differs little from similar conduct back then,” he said.