MASERU — A police officer who was last year awarded M200 000 in damages by the High Court after he sued the police for unlawful arrest might have to settle for far less compensation.
Advocate Rapelang Motsieloa, who is representing the police, this week told the Court of Appeal that Neo Rantjanyana should never have been awarded anything more than M10 000 in damages.
Rantjanyana was awarded M200 000 by High Court judge Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase in February last year for unlawful arrest and detention.
Rantjanyana had claimed that he was wrongfully arrested on August 28, 2003 and kept in custody without food until September 1.
He was accused of helping one Phakiso Molise, who was facing a charge of sedition, to escape from prison in 1997.
During Friday’s hearing Motsieloa told Justices Michael Ramodibedi, sitting together with Justice Lionel Melunsky and Justice Noel Hurt the damages awarded to Rantjanyana was “exorbitant”.
He said a fair amount should only M10 000.
“In the premises we feel that this is a proper case for which the Court of Appeal should interfere,” he said.
“‘Pain and suffering’, it has been said, aims at compensating the victim for all pain, suffering, shock and discomfort suffered as a result of the wrongful act,” he said.
Motsieloa submitted that it was shocking that Rantjanyana had been awarded M200 000 for contumelia (humiliation).
“He (Rantjanyana) spoke of his reputation and not his dignity. It therefore beats me how he was awarded M200 000.
“In our submission respondent should not have been awarded anything under contumelia”.
Rantjanyana had initially claimed M500 000.
Court of Appeal President, Justice Ramodibedi, asked Rantjanyana’s lawyer, Advocate Letuka Molati, how his client had arrived at “that ridiculous amount of money”.
Molati said since his client was not conversant with legal matters he had assumed that he had hit a “jackpot”.
“He was arrested and kept in custody by his colleagues without food for two days,” Molati argued.
“Other people are tough and could endure those circumstances but I don’t feel that I could have survived those circumstances.
“My learned friend (Advocate Rapelang Motsieloa) says my client should get M10 000, which is very low,” Molati said.
He argued that M100 000 would be appropriate in these circumstances, adding that M10 000 would not even meet his client’s legal fees.
“We pray for an order as outlined in the plaintiff’s summons and declaration.
“The evidence on record speaks for itself. The pain and suffering do not result from assault. They are based on plaintiff’s being locked up without food at all.
“The plaintiff was pained by hunger and he was tormented. The injury caused is clear, more so in view of the fact that this issue was not challenged in cross-examination,” Molati said.
Judgment will be delivered on October 21.