Police ordered to pay R1m over unlawful arrest of casino manager

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Ishmael Mboniswa Mbanjwa was a young shift manager at Carousel Casino‚ north of Tshwane‚ when an officer named Colonel Thlapi arrested him in 2006 on grounds he was involved in a robbery at the casino.

Judge Nicolene Janse van Nieuwenhuizen ruled in the North Gauteng High Court on Wednesday that the SAPS should fork out R1.04 million for the arrest and Mbanjwa’s five month jailing.

Mbanjwa will receive R500 000 of that money‚ with the remainder going to legal costs.

The judge said Thlapi arrested Mbanjwa without obtaining a “shred of evidence” implicating him in robbery at the casino on November 4‚ 2005.

Mbanjwa was held at gunpoint and forced to open several safes during the robbery. Janse Van Nieuwenhuizen pointed out that evidence showed he had been “a victim of crime”.

But Thlapi arrested Mbanjwa and opposed his bail application‚ causing him remain behind bars for five months before his release.

I Hussain SC‚ representing Mbanjwa‚ submitted to court that his client at the time of arrest was a 29-year-old who graduated from the Tshwane University of Technology and was married with one young child.

The Gambling Board withdrew his licence due to the arrest‚ leaving him without employment.

“Of significant importance is that this young man‚ living a comfortable life with his family was suddenly … arrested and handcuffed in front of his colleagues‚ a most humiliating experience for a person held in respect and a manager‚” Hussain argued.

Mbanjwa went on be detained “in a filthy and stinking police cell” for a weekend. He spent five months in a prison cell with 50 inmates‚ according to Hussain’s testimony. “They used a single toilet which was inside the same cell.”

After release‚ Mbanjwa was unemployed and blacklisted. He was finally employed by Liberty Life in 2013.

Advocate SJ Coetzee‚ for the police‚ argued his client’s interference with Mbanjwa’s employment was not intentional and they could therefore not be held liable.

But Janse van Niewenhuizen threw this argument out. “Colonel Thlapi could have prevented the loss [of employment] by making sure‚ prior to the plaintiff’s arrest‚ that there was sufficient evidence to arrest [him] on a charge of armed robbery.

“From the evidence it is patently evident that he failed to do so.”

Thlapi’s illegal action cost Mbanjwa dearly‚ Janse van Niewenhuizen said.

“Being a man who held a good job and that was in a position to provide for his family‚ he suffered the humiliation of being unemployed.

“He lost his self-worth and his relationship with his wife was emotionally strained.”

TMG Digital/SowetanLIVE

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