Durban Woman Awarded R350,000 in Damages for Unlawful Arrest by Bheki Cele

March 26, 2024
Bheki Cele sued for unlawful arrest | Report Focus News
Bheki Cele sued for unlawful arrest

Durban, South Africa | A woman, Cynthia Khedama, found herself at the center of a legal battle after enduring a harrowing experience of being wrongfully detained at King Shaka International Airport. The incident, stemming from mistaken identity, led to Khedama’s arrest and subsequent confinement in a cell described as unsanitary and deplorable for a week.

Originally, Khedama was granted a staggering R1 million in damages by the Durban High Court in 2022, following a judgment against Police Minister Bheki Cele. However, Cele appealed the decision, contesting the awarded amount as excessively high.

The ordeal began on December 3, 2011, when Khedama, then 30 years old and employed as a sales manager, was en route to Turkey with her employer and his wife. Her journey took an unexpected turn when she was accosted by police officers at the international departures lounge. Despite her cooperation and attempts to clarify her identity, Khedama found herself subjected to arrest.

The humiliation escalated as her belongings were publicly scrutinized and scattered on the floor. Even after confirming her innocence with an officer in Cape Town, Khedama remained detained. Insults were hurled at her, compounded by derogatory remarks about her relationship with her boyfriend, leading to her transfer to Tongaat Police Station.

Her detention conditions at Tongaat Police Station were abhorrent, with a small, filthy cell reeking of faeces and devoid of basic amenities. Khedama endured this ordeal from December 3 to December 9, 2011, before being transferred to Cape Town. Despite fingerprint evidence exonerating her, she remained in custody for an additional night before finally being granted bail on December 12.

It wasn’t until March 2012 that charges against Khedama were withdrawn, solidifying her innocence. Subsequently, she initiated legal action against the minister in 2013, seeking recourse for the violation of her rights.

During the appeal process in the Pietermaritzburg high court, Judge Thoba Poyo-Dlwati acknowledged the severity of Khedama’s ordeal but deemed the initial R1 million in damages excessive. After considering the unlawful detention, the indignities suffered, and the subsequent impact on Khedama’s life, the judge determined that a fair and reasonable compensation amounted to R350,000.

As a result, Police Minister Bheki Cele was ordered to pay Khedama the revised damages, along with accrued interests at a rate of 15.5% per annum, dating back to the initial judgment on January 17, 2022. This ruling serves as a measure of justice for Khedama’s wrongful arrest and subsequent suffering, marking a significant development in her pursuit of accountability and restitution.