Thursday, October 28, 2021

Mochudi festive-season chorister slaps police with P350 000 lawsuit

A Mochudi man wants P350 000 compensation from the Botswana Police Services for what he alleges was a merciless beatdown (and asymmetrical chemical warfare) that occurred in the early hours of an ill-fated festive-season outing.

Having knocked back a couple, Thato Morolong was on his way home on December 30, 2015, “at around 2 a.m.” when he encountered a joint police-army patrol team. The first question put to him was, “O tswa kae bosigo?” meaning “Where are you from this late?”

“For one reason or another, the second defendant’s officers mistook him for a hoodlum and took advantage of his inebriated state to assume that he was a criminal,” reads Morolong’s court papers referring by second defendant to the Commissioner of the Botswana Police Service.

The stop-and-question encounter escalated to a testy exchange and resulted in Morolong being handcuffed “so tight to the extent that he sustained a multiplicity of permanent injuries and impairment to his hands, head and eyes to an extent of which it has caused conjunctivitis. The latter refers to the inflammation of the conjunctiva, a thin, delicate membrane that covers the eyeball and lines the eyelid. A medical “Report on Examination in a Case of Alleged Assault or Other Crime” shows that on being examined at the Deborah Retief Memorial Hospital the following day, Morolong had conjunctivitis as well bruises and abrasions on his left leg and left side of the face. Five months later, the same hospital prescribed a pair of glasses for him.

Morolong’s lawyer, Lyndon Mothusi, says that his client “was subjected to torture, pain and suffering, exacerbated by prolonged questioning and assaults at Mochudi Police Station. He also alleges to have been sprayed with some chemical in his eyes. Thereafter, “plaintiff was released in a semi-conscious state and told to leave the premises of the police station and to stay a hundred metres outside its boundaries as he wanted to effect a report there and then but was so unlawfully estopped.” For having been bed-ridden for as long as he was and not being able to work as a result, for having suffered “extensive and excruciating beatings” and for having been subjected to “extreme ridicule and indignity”, Morolong wants compensation of P350 000.

The police deny culpability and have filed their own memorandum of appearance to defend. Their version of events is that the officers in question “approached the plaintiff and introduced themselves to him but instead the plaintiff insulted them.” The insult was in the form of Setswana that translates as “Who do you think you are? And you are doing s&*t!” The police deny the unlawful arrest and detention as well as the alleged assault and ill-treatment.

On the other hand, Morolong denies ever having used vulgar language and dismisses the allegation as “afterthought.” In the replication papers, his lawyer makes the argument that if indeed that had happened, the police would have laid the relevant criminal charges ÔÇô which hasn’t happened: “Ample consideration should be gleaned from the inconsistent and inconceivable non-placing of a charge on plaintiff at the material time of arrest for same to be fathomed ex post facto of a period of three years.”

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