PRESS STATEMENT | Pretoria Magistrates’ Court awards damages for unlawful arrest and detention

Date: 15/03/2022

On 11 March 2022, the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court handed down its judgment in the matter of Roy Kamushinda v Minister of Police & Others case no. 462/11 which concerned Roy Kamushina’s (Mr. Kamushinda) claim for damages in the amount of R200 000.00 arising from his unlawful arrest and detention.

On 6 May 2015, Mr. Kamushinda was stopped by a member of the South African Police Service (SAPS) during a stop and search crime prevention operation during which he was asked to produce valid documentation.  At the time of his engagement with the SAPS Officer, Mr. Kamushinda informed him that he was a recognised refugee but was not in possession of his permit, which he had accidentally left at his home that morning, approximately 15 minutes away from where he was stopped.  Despite this, Mr. Kamushinda was arrested and subsequently detained at the Johannesburg Central Police Station.  Upon arrival at the police station, he explained to different people at different times that he was a recognised refugee and had a valid permit at his home.  No one from the SAPS listened to him or attempted to assist him.  Six days after his arrest, Mr. Kamushinda was interviewed by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) for verification of his immigration status in South Africa.  During this interview, he repeatedly explained that he was documented and had a valid refugee permit at home.  The DHA officials refused to discuss his documentation status with him.

On 15 May 2015, Mr. Kamushinda was able to phone his landlord for the first time and request that he bring his refugee permit to the Johannesburg Central Police Station, which he did.  Mr. Kamushinda subsequently presented his valid refugee permit to police officers but they informed him that it was too late and that they could not help him.  Later that day, he was transferred to the Lindela Repatriation Centre (Lindela) to be detained pending his deportation.  Upon arrival at Lindela, Mr. Kamushinda presented his valid refugee permit to different officials at Lindela but no one assisted him.  On 18 May 2015, he once again presented his refugee permit to a DHA official who made a copy of his permit.  It was only on 27 May 2015, after spending 21 nights in appalling conditions of detention, that Mr. Kamushinda was released from detention pursuant to a letter of demand sent by Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR).

LHR represented Mr. Kamushinda in his claim for damages against the Minister of Police where the Court was required to assess whether the SAPS had acted wrongfully thereby giving rise to a claim for damages.  In coming to its conclusion, the Court considered whether the arresting officer had the prerequisite reasonable suspicion to conduct a warrantless search of Mr. Kashuminda and eventually held that he did not and that the stop and search crime prevention operation was thus unlawful, and Mr. Kamushinda was awarded his damages claim.

LHR welcomes this decision, especially as we mark Human Rights Day on 21 March, which is a reminder that our Constitution and legislation promotes and demands that there be  equitable and non-discriminatory policing and immigration services to all in our country, including non-nationals.

Nyiko Manyusa, the attorney leading the matter said ”[T]he law requires law enforcement officials to discharge their duties with care and diligence, taking into consideration people’s human rights and dignity. In Mr. Kamushinda’s case, although he is a refugee in South Africa, the law still required the police and immigration officers to discharge their duties in a responsible manner, and not unlawfully search and arrest him. We trust that Mr. Kamushinda’s victory will be a reminder to all of us, especially those in authority, that we have to respect people’s rights as we are also not above the law. That is what the Constitution and democracy demands from us.”

For further queries, please contact:

Nyiko Manyusa

Attorney | Refugee and Migrant Rights Program


Tel: 011 339 1960


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