Woman’s night in cell costs cops R500k
A psychiatrist said in a report Malatsi was shocked and traumatised, and feared for her life during her arrest.
The police minister has been ordered to pay R500 000 damages to a Pretoria woman who was locked up in a police cell for 13 hours because she was too afraid to stop when plain-clothes policemen tried to pull her off the road in the early hours of the morning.
Lesedi Malatsi, 37, of The Orchards in Pretoria, instituted a damages claim against the minister after her ordeal in July, 2013, starting when she and her sister were driving home from Steve Biko Hospital at 3am.
When she stopped at a traffic light in Nelson Mandela Drive, a police van stopped next to her and the occupants, who were not in police uniform, signalled for her to stop at a dark spot.
Fearing for her safety and suspecting that the men might not be genuine police officers, Malatsi refused to stop, skipped a few traffic lights while being chased by the police and eventually stopped at a filling station in Centurion, where she felt she would be safer.
The police then pointed firearms at the terrified women. One policeman drove her sister home in the police van, while another one drove with her in her sister’s car to the Sunnyside police station, where she was charged with reckless and negligent driving and locked in a cell until the next afternoon.
She was warned to appear in court the next day, but the prosecutor refused to enrol the matter and the charges were withdrawn.
Malatsi alleged the incident had robbed her of her constitutional right to freedom of movement and human dignity.
A psychiatrist said in a report Malatsi was shocked and traumatised, particularly because she was chased at night. She feared for her life during her arrest and while being detained in a filthy cell, full of sex workers and other criminals.
She now suffered from anxiety attacks and headaches, battled to sleep, was short-tempered, had flashbacks of the incident, resented the police, and avoided the spot where her car was chased by the police.
Her psychiatrist said she could benefit from counselling and medication.
The court granted default judgment in Malatsi’s favour after the minister failed to oppose the claim.