Patrick Buthelezi spent 13 months in jail for a crime he was eventually acquitted of. Now, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the police minister are going to have to pay him for damages.
According to court papers from the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg, Buthelezi was arrested in 2011 and detained on a charge of raping a nine-year-old pupil at the school where he was teaching in Umlazi, Durban. He was arrested on November 21, 2011, after presenting himself at the Bhekithemba police station after having been informed that the police had visited the school to look for him.
On December 12 of the same year, a judgment was handed down by the presiding magistrate in which bail was refused, as he had been charged with a Schedule 6 offence in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977.
Following the refusal of bail, “the plaintiff remained incarcerated until the conclusion of his criminal trial on December 14, 2012, when he was eventually acquitted of the charges against him,” reads Judge Mahendra Chetty’s judgment.
In his legal action, Buthelezi contended that the investigating officer assigned to the case, Warrant Officer Mathengela, had failed to bring to the attention of the court certain “unsatisfactory features” in the evidence of the rape victim.
It was further contended that “the arresting officer and the investigating officer, in collusion with the prosecutor, assigned to oppose the bail application, all knew of the existence of these facts, yet withheld them from the court hearing the bail application”.
The judgment continues that Buthelezi alleged that the police and the prosecutor, Ms Peramal, “were privy to all of the statements forming part of the police docket at the bail application”.
“They were aware that a fellow teacher at the school, Ms Mkhize, whom the learner alleges witnessed the incident (or part thereof) in the classroom, had deposed to a statement indicating that she saw no such thing.
“Despite the exculpatory nature of the statement, its contents were not placed before the court at the bail application. As a result, the plaintiff alleges that the police failed to investigate the matter properly and that the prosecutor (and the police) failed in their public law duty to disclose evidence in their possession at the bail hearing, with the effect that the court was misled, resulting in the plaintiff being refused bail,” it reads.
Judge Chetty continued that “…it had been [the] intention of the investigating officer from the outset to oppose bail and he was instrumental in withholding vital evidence from the court”.
Although Buthelezi has won a damages and costs order for his legal expenses, the amount is yet to be determined.
The NPA was unable to comment at the time of publishing.