By Mashudu Netsianda
The High Court has ordered Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Cain Mathema and three police detectives to pay an injiva US$5 000 as compensation following his unlawful arrest and detention on false allegations of driving a stolen South African registered car.
Mr Bongani Ncube was driving to Livingstone, Zambia, when he was intercepted by detectives manning the exit gate at the Victoria Falls Border Post.
The cops accused Mr Ncube, who is based in South Africa, of driving a stolen car and using fake vehicle registration papers.
The ruling by Bulawayo High Court Justice Martin Makonese follows an application by Mr Ncube, through his lawyers Dube-Banda, Nzarayapenga and Partners, citing Detective Constable Artwell Sibanda, Detective Assistant Inspector Felix Tandi, Detective Sergeant Brian Munyanyi and Minister Mathema, as defendants.
Mr Ncube sought to be compensated US$50 000 in damages for wrongful and unlawful deprivation of liberty by the defendants.
However, Justice Makonese, using his discretion, ordered the defendants to pay the plaintiff US$5 000 as quantum of damages including the legal costs he incurred.
“In the result it is ordered that the defendants are ordered to pay damages in the sum of US$5 000 jointly and severally, the one paying the other to be absolved together with interest at the prescribed rate,” ruled the judge.
Justice Makonese said the arresting officer, Det Const Sibanda, was overzealous and acted irrationally without bothering to first verify the documents.
“The first defendant (Det Const Sibanda) acted irrationally and with haste. He failed to execute his duties diligently and as a result recklessly came to a wrong conclusion of the fact that the motor vehicle was suspected to have been stolen. In view of the fact that the plaintiff has been unnecessarily put out of pocket by defendants, he is entitled to a full recovery of his costs on the higher scale,” he said.
Justice Makonese said the arrest of Mr Ncube and the subsequent impounding of his car, a Hyundai 1X35, was triggered by mere suspicion.
The authenticity of the documents of the car, which Mr Ncube bought through hire purchase, was verified through an email from his bank in South Africa.
According court papers, on April 4 in 2017, Mr Ncube, in the company of his brother Ndodana, arrived at the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia in Victoria Falls enroute to Zambia driving his car.
Upon completing immigration formalities, they proceeded to the exit gate of the border where they were intercepted by two police officers manning the gate.
They informed Mr Ncube that his car registration papers were not genuine and ordered him to drive the car to Victoria Falls Police Station where they impounded the car and detained him.
On the following day, Mr Ncube’s car was released after he was told that it had been cleared with Interpol.
In his summons, Mr Ncube argued that the defendants violated his constitutional right to personal liberty when they arrested him on false allegations of car theft.
In their defence, through the Civil Division in the Attorney General’s Office, the defendants contended that they were carrying out their mandate in terms of the constitution which provides that police should detect, investigate and prevent crime. The Chronicle