Karyn Maughan, Cape Argus (SA), iol, Jun. 14
Two former police officers were cleared in the Cape High Court of a racist attack on two petrol attendants after it emerged that they had been convicted despite medical evidence that their alleged victims had not been assaulted.
Simon Ngcwangu and Anton Mtwazi laid charges against Inspector Christie Channing and Sergeant Anton Gerber after the two police officers allegedly assaulted them during questioning over the suspected theft of R400 from a Milnerton petrol station in 1996.
They claimed Channing and Gerber had hit and kicked them and threatened and hit Ngcwangu with a gun, after taking them to the Milnerton police station for questioning.
Ngcwangu testified that Channing had called him a “kaffir” and claimed he had been kicked in the testicles and had a mug full of hot water poured over his head — which he could “feel burning” — while being questioned by the men.
According to Ngcwangu, he decided to tell the police officers that he would pay the money back after they persisted in hitting him.
Both he and Mtwazi then decided to sign confessions, Ngcwangu said.
Channing and Gerber pleaded not guilty to the charges, later leaving the police service, apparently as a result of the case against them.
Channing and Gerber were sentenced to a R6 000 fine or 12 months in jail, suspended for five years, in the Cape Town magistrate’s court in April 2003.
Arnelle Marsh, for Channing and Gerber, argued that Magistrate S Maku had “erred in finding that (Ngcwangu and Mtwazi) were reliable witnesses” — particularly in light of evidence showing that the two attendants were responsible for the theft.
According to Marsh, Ngcwangu and Mtwazi evidently blamed Channing and Gerber’s investigations for causing them to lose their jobs.
Marsh argued that Ngcwangu’s evidence had been inconsistent with the medical evidence provided by Dr Helen Muir, which showed that grazing found on Ngcwangu’s shins probably pre-dated the alleged assault and that it was “conclusive that no assault took place”.
Despite Ngcwangu only seeking medical assistance some four days after the attack, Muir said she would have expected to find evidence of bruising on his skin — of which there was none.
Mtwazi produced no evidence of injuries, despite claiming that he had been to a doctor after the alleged assault, Marsh pointed out.