Two Tembisa men are suing the minister of police and the prosecuting authority for R44 million after spending two years and eight months behind bars for a rape they did not commit.
The High Court in Pretoria this week gave Tota Sebotsa, 35, and Kenneth Tshabalala, 39, of Tembisa the go-ahead to continue with their massive damages claim against the state institutions, although their claim was not issued within the legally prescribed six months.
They said in court papers they only became aware they could institute a damages claim after their release from prison in December 2016.
The two men were arrested near Centurion in April 2014, and charged with kidnapping, rape and robbery with aggravating circumstances. Bail was denied.
The two appeared in court more than 60 times as their trial was frequently delayed because the DNA evidence was not available. They were eventually acquitted because the DNA results revealed that they were not linked to the rape.
The two claimed the police had arrested them without proper cause and that the prosecutor had refused to withdraw the charges and proceeded to trial despite the lack of evidence against them.
Both said they were severely inconvenienced, distressed, humiliated and their dignity was impaired during their long years in detention. They also suffered damages because they could not earn income.
According to court papers, one of the arresting officers had approached Sebotsa a few months before his arrest about helping to track down a wanted suspect. The officer promised to give him R100 000 as a reward to act as an informer, but then stopped answering his phone when Sebotsa tried to contact him about the reward and arrested him instead.
In a letter, Sebotsa’s lawyer said his client had been labelled a flight risk, an undocumented immigrant and a bush-dweller.
He had to sleep on the floor in a crowded cell with dangerous criminals who often threatened his life and violated his physical privacy. He still had nightmares about being locked up in the smelly holding cells and continued to struggle to fully connect with people outside prison.