Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) Judge JM Opperman has said the reality of the police, the prosecuting authority and the courts in their battle against crime was that they had to make split-second decisions to arrest suspects and make complicated choices on whether to release the suspects or prosecute them.

Pretoria News says Opperman turned down an application for R650 000 in damages by a Lesotho national, Fako Chetane, against the SAPS and the NPA after he was detained for 10 days on domestic violence charges.

He appeared in court over three months or so before the case against him was withdrawn as the matter was mediated between the parties.

In the opening to her judgment, Opperman said the SAPS and NPA often come face to face with domestic violence cases, which were challenging and complicated to deal with.

‘It is emotional and often grim; the people involved and evidence are also unpredictable. The battle against criminal anarchy that threatens our society is grave,’ the judge said.

Chetane was first arrested in April 2021 and released the same day on warning, after he allegedly threatened to kill his former girlfriend and her child.

According to the Pretoria News report, he was warned to stay away from her and the law on domestic violence was explained to him.

Chetane was arrested for a second time after he went to the complainant’s brother to explain to him that the complainant was not sleeping at home anymore. Chetane was again arrested when he allegedly assaulted the woman at the shop and chased her around.

This time, Chetane was put behind bars for 10 days, so that the SAPS and prosecutor could confirm his details because he is not a SA citizen.

In referring to the fact that even after being warned to stay away from her, Chetane went to her work with her brother, the judge said it showed disrespect for the right of the complainant to decide her fate and privacy. 

‘Two men took a decision as if she does not have any recognition under the Constitution as a human being in her own right,’ the judge said.

Opperman said the arresting officer had made sure of his facts before he had arrested the plaintiff and he had applied the law in relation to domestic violence.

He had realised that the woman’s life was in danger, the judge said, in ruling in favour of the SAPS and turning down the damages claim.

Full Pretoria News report in The Star