09/03/2008 20:22 - (SA)
Willem Pelser, Rapport
Polokwane - It's the greatest fear of every law-abiding citizen: you land in a police cell without good reason and you're raped.
That is exactly what happened to a young father from Polokwane - just weeks before his wedding.
On Saturday, March 1, Nico Bouwer, 25, was wed while heavily medicated - antidepressants because of severe trauma and antiretrovirals to prevent HIV/Aids.
Four detainees repeatedly raped Bouwer in one night.
The police did nothing to prevent it from happening.
He had been arrested earlier in the day at an accident and thrown in a cell.
Bouwer said he had not been allowed to make the phone call to which he was entitled by law.
Asked four times for phone call
A broken Bouwer spoke openly to Rapport about his nightmare experience that began when he was arrested on January 6 because a police officer thought he had been driving recklessly.
At the police station, Bouwer said he had asked four times to phone his family, but this had been denied him each time.
In the dirty cell where he was kept with 25 other inmates, his arms were held and his head was pressed into a pillow so that his screams could not be heard.
Apparently, Bouwer wept aloud from shock and despair.
In the course of the night, he was repeatedly raped by four inmates.
He said the police did not once come to see what was happening in the cells.
Later, Bouwer lost consciousness.
When he woke up early the next morning, one of the men crawled to him and whispered with a smile: "After last night, you are truly one of us."
The man walked off when a police officer walked past the cell.
Bouwer was released on bail hours later after his family eventually had managed to trace him.
Devastated him emotionally
He fell to pieces and his family rushed him to hospital where tests were done.
Police took his clothing to get DNA evidence of the rapists.
Bouwer will get his final HIV/Aids tests this week and he is extremely worried about them.
The night from hell devastated him emotionally and he has nightmares and flashbacks.
"I still frequently wake up in the morning and smell the stinking cell in which I was raped."
Bouwer and his bride, Rose-Mary, 24, must receive intensive therapy according to doctors - if Bouwer can find the money.
His wife lost her job and he does not have medical aid.
His son, Jevani, 5 - who understands that his father was locked up by the cops - developed an intense fear of police officers.
Bouwer has identified the four rapists already and they have appeared in court on charges of rape.
He also wants to start a civil action against the police.
Inspector Lesiba Ramosheba of Polokwane police spoke to Rapport and confirmed the rape claims.
He denied Bouwer had not been allowed to make a phone call.
He also denied that police had neglected to regularly check what was happening in the cells where Bouwer had been locked up.
Complaints of rape during detainment were rare, said Professor Peter Jordi, a lawyer at the Wits law clinic.
Locked in cell with four youths
But, when it does happen, the police can be held responsible.
Jordi said police were supposed to inspect the cells frequently.
In 2003, a 15-year-old girl was raped by older men in the cells in Amsterdam, Mpumalanga.
In 2006, a young woman was raped in the Thembalethu police station outside George after she had been locked up in a cell with four youths.
In July 2007, Peter Wheeler, 55, of Middelburg was beaten and kicked to death by fellow inmates in the police cells in Grabouw after he had been arrested for drunkenness.