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Businessman claims R1m for wrongful arrest

"I was then marched to the police van and ordered to climb in the back."

A well-known Ermelo businessman has instituted a R1 million claim against the Commissioner of Police on the grounds of wrongful arrest, defamation and loss of income.

Mr Gerhard Pieterse, owner of Hardie Tires and exhausts was handcuffed in full view of colleagues and clients at his workplace and ordered to climb into the back of a police van before being taken to the Ermelo police station where he was placed in a holding cell for close to six hours.

It later transpired that a charge of malicious damage to state property had been laid against Mr Pieterse.

The claim comes after an incident on the parking apron of his business in which he let the air out of the front wheel of an unlawfully parked vehicle.

“It was the end of the month and we were very busy. We have a system of parking and queuing vehicles that come in for fitments and they are moved forward on a first come, first served basis.

I noticed a Toyota Hilux bakkie in the parking area and asked around amongst my staff and customers to ascertain why the vehicle was not being attended to.

I then learned that it was not a customer’s vehicle and because it was unlawfully parked on my property I decided to deflate one of the tires so that when the owner came back I could confront him.

After about an hour a man approached me and asked for a quotation to repair a flat tire.
It turned out he was the owner or driver of the vehicle. He said the account should be charged to the Police. I explained to him that I am not contracted to the Police Services and told him to leave.

About 15 minutes later at about 10:00, I was busy taking a photo of the vehicle and the flat wheel when a Police lieutenant approached me and told me he was going to arrest me for malicious damage to state property.

I asked him ‘What state property?’ as there were no markings or signage on the vehicle to indicate that it was indeed state property.

“He then replied that he could arrest me if he wanted to and proceeded to handcuff me in front of customers and staff members. I was then marched to the police van and ordered to climb in the back.”
“There were engine parts and motor car spares lying loose in the van so I took them out and placed on the tarmac before I got in.”

Mr Pieterse was then taken to the Ermelo Police Station and placed in a holding cell where he maintains he was not officially informed of the charges against him.

“In fact I never saw the arresting officer again.”

He was then asked to write a statement but refused, saying that his lawyer would handle matters further. He then phoned his lawyer, Mr. Conrad Botha. It was only then that the charges against Mr Pieterse were explained.

He was then told he would appear in court at 13:45 but was only taken to the Ermelo Magistrate’s Court at 14:30 and placed in a holding cell along with other awaiting trial offenders, some of whom were smoking cigarettes.

“At one stage I felt my lungs could not tolerate the smoke any longer so I kicked up a fuss. I was then taken to another holding cell. At 15:30 I was escorted into the courtroom.”

The case was postponed to December 15 to allow for further investigation.

Mr Pieterse was then released on bail of R500.


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