The Mercury

Police found liable

- Sharika Regchand

TWO police officers from Ladysmith and the minister of police have been found liable for damages caused to a man the officers assaulted and bound to a washing line pole, before setting a fire around him.

Mthobisi Thungo sustained burns on his calves, the back of his right thigh and to his fingers.

Judge Daya Pillay found in a recent reserved judgment handed down in the Pietermari­tzburg High Court that the police were liable for damages, for his unlawful arrest and detention and the assaults.

The amount would be determined at a later stage.

The police said the arrest had been staged because Thungo feared being attacked, having been suspected of being an informer. His being arrested would imply he was not.

Judge Pillay found that Thungo was not an informer. The judge also said his arrest was real and initiated only by the police. It was unjustifie­d and unlawful and he was assaulted and burnt.

Thungo testified that police arrived at his home at 8am on March 18, 2012. One officer grabbed him by the arm, handcuffed him, slapped him and took him outside. He demanded Thungo produce a gun, which he did not have. Another officer hit him with a stick and he was tied to a pole.

The first officer gathered some dry grass while the other produced a match and plastic bags. They lit the grass and the flames burnt him. They then took him to another area where they dropped him off.

A neighbour testified that she saw flames behind and near Thungo’s legs. After burning him, the police untied him and left with him.

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