2006-10-17 : SAPS man assaulted by 'his own'

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2006-10-17 : SAPS man assaulted by 'his own'

Postby GOSA » Wed, 2006-10-18 14:22

SAPS man assaulted by 'his own'

Tania Broughton
October 17 2006 at 11:09AM

It's a case of cop versus cop in the Durban High Court where a director in the SA Police Services is suing five Durban Metro policemen and the eThekwini Municipality for about R500 000 following a late night raid on his home.

During the raid, his door was broken down and he and his family were threatened by gun-wielding policemen.

The seven-day trial will be an important test of search-and-seizure laws, the concept of "reasonable suspicion" and how these balance against a person's constitutional right to dignity and privacy.

The action has been brought by Director Mzikayifani Zondi, his wife, Dorothy Zondi, his three sons, Siyabonga, Mduduzi and Thamsanqa, and his nephew, Khulekani Zondi, against the municipality and the five Metro officers who are recorded only by their surnames: Beavan, Farrar, Naidoo, Masikane and Moolman.

'She had suffered terror, emotional trauma and indignity'

Zondi, who works at the station commissioner's office in KwaMashu, says that about 10.30pm on January 21 2003, the policemen, brandishing firearms, forcibly entered his KwaNdengezi home, near Mariannhill, while he and his family were sleeping.

He claims that not only was it an invasion of his privacy, but he was assaulted, threatened, interrogated and, in being accused of having unlicensed firearms, he was also defamed.

His wife said she had suffered terror, emotional trauma and indignity and was not allowed to get properly dressed.

Zondi said his children, who woke up and witnessed the incident, had been traumatised and a firearm had been pointed at his nephew who had been made to lie on the floor while he and his possessions were searched.

In reply, the municipality and the policemen admit entering the house but deny acting unlawfully.

'We believed this to be the truth and we conducted a search.'

They said they had been conducting an investigation with members of the SAPS into criminal activity in the area.

Acting on information from an informer, they had searched a house and an unlicensed firearm had been recovered.

The person at that house had told them he knew of more unlicensed firearms at what turned out to be Zondi's house.

"We believed this to be the truth and we conducted a search. We used reasonable and justifiable force.

"We knocked on the door and when it was not attended to timeously, or at all, we opened it forcibly," the respondents say.

They deny assaulting anyone.

In opening address before KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Vuka Tshabalala on Monday, advocate Paul Schoeman, acting for Zondi, said the policemen had relied on the information of a criminal to conduct the raid.

"There was no proper basis for his sanctity to have been disturbed. He was fast asleep with his wife and children. Innocent people may well have been hurt. They were ordered to lie on the ground by gun-wielding policemen and threatened."

Advocate Griffiths Madonsela, for the municipality and the Metro policemen, said the case was a test of the "reasonable suspicion" standard and the right of the police to investigate crime.

However, the judge has urged the municipality to consider settling the matter, saying he would take a "lot of convincing".

"This man is a senior police officer. Hindsight tells them that they were wrong and they should settle instead of spending seven days in court leading evidence that does not take the case any further and trying to justify why they entered somebody's house for no reason.

"They didn't even find out whose house it was beforehand. In the present constitutional dispensation such conduct can only be frowned upon," he said.

He emphasised that he was not making a finding but expressing himself after reading the pleadings.

Madonsela asked that the matter stand down until Tuesday for him to take instructions.

This article was originally published on page 4 of The Mercury on October 17, 2006
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