MASERU – Police brutality was again brought to the fore this week when a Thaba-Tseka man told a harrowing tale of torture and assault he suffered in 2011 at the hands of the police while being investigated for alleged stock theft. Tšehla Mafantiri of Mantšonyane, Ha Toka narrated to the High Court how police officers investigating his case unlawfully detained him, beat him up and forced him to wade into a frozen river naked.
For his troubles, Mafantiri is demanding M500 000 from the commissioner of police for, among others, pain and suffering, damages, and loss of income. The commissioner is vicariously liable for his subordinates’ actions. Mafantiri’s revelations will highlight growing criticism of the police who were recently accused of assaulting a taxi driver to death for grappling with an officer.
Mafantiri was on July 18 2011 arrested on suspicion of stealing sheep and was subsequently convicted by the Thaba-Tseka Magistrate’s Court. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment, three of which were suspended. He was, however, released on M1000 bail despite telling the court he had papers proving ownership of the sheep he had been convicted of stealing. Mafantiri told the High Court the court which heard his stock theft case did not allow him to collect the documents from his home.
Later that year, the High Court declared his arrest unlawful and ordered the six sheep he was suspected of stealing to be returned to him. Despite the court order, the sheep have not been returned, he added in his court papers. Also, he claimed Thaba Tseka police told him the sheep had died hence his application to the High Court for compensation.
This is for assault, pain and suffering, medical expenses, unlawful arrest, unlawful detention as well as loss of the sheep and earnings he would have made from the sheep. He said in his papers that when policemen arrested, detained and assaulted him, they were acting wrongfully and unlawfully, adding that they were abusing their powers especially when they unlawfully detained his sheep which were left to die.
“When these policemen arrested, detained and assaulted me, they were acting wrongfully and unlawfully, they were even abusing their powers, especially when they unlawfully detained my sheep and left them to die,” he said in the papers. He told the court that police tried to force him to admit stealing the sheep by torturing him, adding three police officers severely assaulted him.
The officers, he told the court, took him to a frozen river where they ordered him to undress and break the ice on top of the water before forcing him into the water. In the meantime, they continued assaulting him. He said police told him they did not believe his vehement denials of complicity and knowledge on the whereabouts of the missing sheep the police had been looking for.
Mafantiri said he was taken to his cattle post after being severely beaten. The officers told him they needed to search the post for the missing sheep. A total 75 of his sheep were held for investigations. While the rest were released, six were retained by the police ostensibly for further investigations. This after Mafantiri had failed to immediately produce proof of ownership which was at home. He was denied permission to present the papers before court and was subsequently charged and sentenced.
Mafantiri, in his court papers, also said his sheep have not been released to him despite the court order. He had also lost on shearing earnings and was thereby demanding compensation from the commissioner of police. The matter will be heard again on September 13.Default Basic Success warning Info Danger Primary