Huge payout for game ranger tortured by police

15 January 2018 - 12:50 By Ernest Mabuza
Game ranger Tommy Mogakane has been awarded R350‚000 in damages after he was tortured by policemen in 2015. File photo.
Game ranger Tommy Mogakane has been awarded R350‚000 in damages after he was tortured by policemen in 2015. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

A game ranger at the Kruger National Park has been awarded R350‚000 in damages after he was tortured by policemen in 2015.

The amount awarded to Tommy Mogakane is among hundreds of millions paid by the minister of police for the wrongful conduct of his officers.

In the 2015/2016 financial year‚ 16‚498 new incidents resulting in civil claims were lodged against the police compared to 9‚877 during 2014/2015. During the former period‚ police paid R300 million to settle some of the claims.

On December 15 2015‚ police visited Mogakane‚ who has been employed in the park for 20 years‚ and demanded the keys to his safe‚ saying they were looking for horns and firearms.

His firearms were taken but no horns were found. He was then taken to the South African National Parks Environmental Crimes Investigations offices in Skukuza.

“His face was covered with a masking tape‚ (they) took off his jacket and ordered him to sit on the floor with his legs stretched over whilst his hands were handcuffed. He was then covered with (a) tyre tube around his neck and it rested on his shoulders‚” Pretoria High Court Judge Francis Legodi said.

Mogakane was forced to inhale something like water and he could not see where it was coming from as his face was covered.

He was then assaulted while police demanded that he produce the firearms and horns they were looking for.

After 24 hours‚ he heard one of the policeman saying: “Enough is enough‚ let us leave him.”

He was then taken back towards his home and left on the side of the road.

Pictures entered into evidence in court show the injuries he sustained to his arms‚ legs and feet.

After being discharged from hospital‚ police picked him up and took him to Skukuza police station and locked him in a police cell. The cell only had filthy blankets without any mattresses. Mogakane could not use the blanket and lay on the floor.

As he does not eat meat or food with sugar and salt‚ Mogakane only ate bread and drank water while in detention. The charges against him were ultimately withdrawn on December 18.

Legodi said it was of great concern that police still found it necessary to use physical abuse to extract information from suspects. Such practices hindered police's ability to develop expertise in crime detection.

“Change of mindset and probably training need to be steered in the direction that lays emphasis on competence and excellence in the investigation of crimes‚” the judge said.

Legodi said the motive for arresting Mogakane for the second time was questionable.

“An attempt to allow the injuries to subside seems to be the motivation‚” Legodi said in his judgment.

He granted Mogakane R100‚000 in damages for each day he was detained. He granted R150‚000 for the assault‚ pain and suffering caused.

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