In­no­cent man re­calls night­mare of po­lice tor­ture and as­sault

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - ZELDA VEN­TER

A LABOURER from a small vil­lage out­side Makhado (for­merly Louis Trichardt) was so se­verely tor­tured by the po­lice when they tried to force him to con­fess to theft that he was left a bro­ken man with per­ma­nent phys­i­cal scars.

The Gaut­eng High Court, Pre­to­ria, was told that Ray­mond Mashele, 32, is per­ma­nently dis­fig­ured fol­low­ing the tor­ture. Although a doc­tor con­firmed the in­juries he had suf­fered and his arms and legs were scarred as a re­sult, he could not open a case of as­sault against the po­lice.

Ac­cord­ing to Mashele, a fe­male SAPS of­fi­cer threat­ened to throw him back in jail and throw the key away if he took the mat­ter fur­ther.

Mashele was kept in a hold­ing cell for two weeks while be­ing sub­jected to tor­ture and in­hu­mane treat­ment.

His fam­ily even­tu­ally man­aged to gather the R2 000 bail which the court had set for him and he was al­lowed to go home. The court then with­drew charges against him when it emerged that the po­lice had the wrong sus­pect.

Mashele even­tu­ally claimed R4 mil­lion in dam­ages from po­lice as well as from in­di­vid­ual SAPS mem­bers in­volved in his tor­ture. This amount was later re­duced to R1.5m.

The court found that the po­lice were re­spon­si­ble for his in­juries. The only ques­tion re­main­ing was how much he was due to be paid in dam­ages. This is­sue is to be de­ter­mined at a later stage.

Mashele’s or­deal started on April 1, 2014, when a fam­ily from his vil­lage ac­cused him of steal­ing goods from their home. They dragged him to the Makhado po­lice sta­tion where he was held for a few hours.

Be­fore he was for­mally ar­rested or charged, an armed po­lice­man re­moved him from the cells and he was in­ter­ro­gated in the charge of­fice about “the miss­ing goods.” He was hit with a stick across the head as he said he had no idea what the po­lice were re­fer­ring to.

Mashele was then trans­ported to a re­mote area out­side town, where he was strung-up by hand­cuffs around his wrists to a metal pole sus­pended in the air be­tween two po­lice vans.

His an­kles were chained and he was un­able to move while hang­ing from the pole.

He was vi­o­lently as­saulted with his own shoes, while three male of­fi­cers and a fe­male screamed in­sults at him. They de­manded a con­fes­sion as to where the stolen goods were.

When his wrists bled pro­fusely, the po­lice fas­tened the cuffs to his up­per arms and strung him again to the pole, be­fore they re­sumed their tor­tur­ing.

Mashele said he was cry­ing hys­ter­i­cally by then and he be­lieved he was go­ing to die, as they told him they were go­ing to drown him in the nearby dam.

He said although he had no knowl­edge of the miss­ing goods, he told the po­lice what they wanted to hear, as he could not han­dle to tor­ture.

While bleed­ing from his arms and legs, he was thrown back into the van and taken to a moun­tain, where he was told that he was go­ing to be killed.

The po­lice then took him back to the hold­ing cell and gave him a flea-in­fested blan­ket. His pleas for med­i­cal help were ig­nored and he was left in the cold, dark cell, while bleed­ing.

Mashele said he was taken to the same spot the fol­low­ing day and tor­tured in the same man­ner, although this time they also suf­fo­cated him with a plas­tic bag over his head. He ur­gently needed med­i­cal treat­ment and feared he would die.

The court granted him bail a few days later, but his ex­tremely poor fam­ily only man­aged to gather the money two weeks later.

All charges were dropped soon af­ter this when he was told that fin­ger­prints on the scene led the po­lice to the “real cul­prit.”

Mashele said his life turned into a night­mare as he now feared po­lice. He can­not speak or move when he sees an of­fi­cer and has re­cur­ring night­mares. He can­not use one of his hands and is de­pen­dent on his hands to work and earn money.

Bleed­ing from his arms and legs, he was thrown back into the van

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