Sisonke Macakathi v Minister of Police unreported case No 1352/2012 dated 7 October 2015 (ECG)
Mr Macakathi (the plaintiff [Afrikaans: “eiser”]) was a taxi driver in the vicinity of Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape Province. The taxi he used belonged to his employer, Mr Khanya.
On 15 December 2009, Macakathi was stopped on the N2 by Inspector Richard van der Merwe, an employee of the provincial transport department. Van der Merwe found that the licence disc on the taxi was false in that it was not an original disc and that it reflected a false expiry date, to obscure the fact that it had in fact expired. Van der Merwe then arrested Macakathi without a warrant on a charge of fraud and summoned the SAPS. Macakathi told Van der Merwe that the taxi belonged to Khanya and that he (Macakathi) had never licensed the taxi and that he never had sight of the licence documents.
Const Bongisani Mhlaba arrived at the scene whereupon Macakathi was taken to the police station. The police checked the taxi and found that it was not a stolen vehicle and that it belonged to Khanya. On 17 December 2009, Macakathi appeared before the Grahamstown magistrates’ court whereupon he was remanded in custody to 23 December 2009 for a bail application. On the latter date, Macakathi was released on R500 bail, whereafter the matter was postponed from time to time until the charge was eventually withdrawn.
Not satisfied with this state of affairs, Macakathi instituted a civil action before the High Court in Grahamstown against the Minister of Police for damages arising from this alleged unlawful arrest and detention. Bear in mind that Const Mhlaba maintained that he, and not Van der Merwe, had arrested Macakathi. According to paragraph  of the court's judgment, it accepted that Mhlaba had in fact, formally arrested Macakathi without a warrant.
In court, Const Mhlaba conceded that there was a possibility that someone other than Macakathi had committed the fraud. According to Mhlaba, he did not act on that possibility because Macakathi lived far away and it would not be easy to make contact with the owner of the taxi, namely Mr Khanya.
In considering the matter before it, the court, as usual, referred to previous, similar court decisions for possible guidance. In this regard the court, inter alia, referred to Minister of Safety and Security v Tyokwana 2015 (1) SACR 597 (SCA) (see Pollex in Servamus: December 2015), and Woji v Minister of Police 2015 (1) SACR 409 (SCA) (see Pollex in Servamus: June 2015).