Pretoria High Court Judge Jody Kollapen this week ruled that the minister was liable for the damages sustained by Johannes Matlala when he was unlawfully assaulted by members of the police in March 2011.
However, the Judge dismissed Matlala’s claim for his unlawful arrest and detention, finding the police had been justified in arresting him.
The amount to be paid to Matlala will only be determined at a later stage.
Matlala was arrested at a tavern while police were investigating an attempted robbery at a supermarket in Moutse in Limpopo.
He claimed he was severely assaulted on four different occasions after his arrest, as a result of which he admitted his involvement in the (unrelated) purchase and sale of stolen diesel.
He took the police to the person to whom he had sold the diesel, but claimed he was further assaulted thereafter.
Matlala was never charged with the attempted robbery as the complainant withdrew the charge, but pleaded guilty to a charge of being in possession of stolen diesel.
He was treated at a state hospital the day after his arrest, where the doctor noted various abrasions on the his face, chest and back and that he was struggling to urinate because of a “crush syndrome”.
He later went back to the hospital where he was treated for a fractured leg and knee, which doctors said were consistent with blunt force trauma with a stick-like object.
The police were adamant that Matlala had never been assaulted and said he appeared normal when he was arrested with no visible marks or wounds.
Judge Kollapen said the medical evidence strongly supported the conclusion that Matlala had been assaulted by the police.
If Matlala was physically and otherwise normal at the time of his arrest, it was inexplicable how he had sustained the injuries. All the circumstances pointed strongly pointed in the direction of him having been assaulted by the police, the Judge added.