News / South Africa

Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
16 Apr 2018
6:00 am

Ministers ordered to pay R300K to woman after wrongful arrest

Ilse de Lange

There was no food, blankets, furniture or water for her in a cell with a broken toilet.

A young woman who suffers from post-traumatic stress after spending six nights in various filthy police cells has been awarded R300 000 in damages.

Judge Bill Prinsloo in the High Court in Pretoria ordered the police and justice ministers to pay this sum in damages to Gugulethu Mlilo of Olievenhoutbosch outside Pretoria, for her ordeal at the hands of the police and the justice system in 2013.

Mlilo was on her way to attend a funeral in Zimbabwe with her mother and sister when she was arrested at the Musina border post in the early hours of the morning, on the basis that a warrant for her arrest on a fraud charge had been issued against her in Ermelo months before.

ALSO READ: Congolese warlord loses bid against $1 mln damages award

The police refused to give her any further information.

It later emerged that her identity document, which had been stolen in 2010, had apparently been used to open a bank account and enter into a lease agreement, both of which she knew nothing about.

Mlilo spent her first night in a dirty cell with 15 other women, a dirty toilet and no tap to drink water from.

She was taken to court the next morning, where bail was denied, and was later transported to the Middelburg police station, where she was first taken to a room that was “full of blood and blood clots” and then to a cell with no food, blankets or furniture.

She had to use a plastic bag to relieve herself because the toilet was broken and she only ate after her uncle brought her some food.

Her requests that she wanted to speak to a lawyer and to contact her family were ignored and she was eventually told her case had been dismissed when she was taken to court in Ermelo several days later.

She only found out what the case was about a day before she was released and then made a statement about the alleged fraud.

Prinsloo said it was clear that the arresting officer had no details about the charges against Mlilo and had not seen the warrant by the time he arrested her.

The investigating officer in the case against her also never interviewed Mlilo before he applied for a warrant.

He said it was clear her arrest was unlawful and she was never given a chance to properly apply for bail.