August 18 2008 at 08:08AM
Minister of Safety and Security Charles Nqakula has agreed to pay R370 000 in damages to a Nigel mother whose son was beaten to death in the local police cells three years ago.
Theresa van der Merwe initially claimed R1,5-million in the Pretoria High Court from the minister. She stated that her son Christopher van Rensburg was the family's only breadwinner at the time of his death.
Van Rensburg was 31 when his body was discovered in the blood splattered cell.
Van der Merwe stated that he was arrested on September 27, 2005 by Constable Vuyo Vilakazi and another unidentified police officer.
Van der Merwe said her son was assaulted by police in the presence of other members of the SAPS
He was ostensibly arrested for being drunk in public.
According to court papers, Van Rensburg was assaulted by the police after he was detained in the Nigel police cells.
He died the same day and the cause of death was given as multiple injuries. These included various facial injuries, abrasions to his head and wrist and a contusion to his right ear.
Pictures of the blood splattered cell formed part of the evidence placed before court.
Van der Merwe said her son was assaulted by police in the presence of other members of the SAPS and that nobody came to his aid.
She also complained that her son did not receive medical treatment after he was assaulted.
She said Van Rensburg financially supported her, her unemployed husband and 24-year-old daughter.
The daughter suffered serious brain injuries in a car accident and is unable to work or provide for herself.
Van der Merwe, now an assistant nurse at the Life Suikerbosrand Clinic in Nigel, said the family was battling to make ends meet.
She is claiming damages for the loss of her son's income, the emotional shock and trauma she had to endure as well as for the expenditure incurred on his funeral.
According to a report by a psychiatrist, Van der Merwe experienced the death of her son as very traumatic.
She developed depression and is still very tearful.
The police, in spite of now agreeing to pay the damages, initially denied liability for the man's death.
They admitted he had died in the police cells, but said it was not due to any fault of the SAPS.
They, however, admitted that there was an obligation on the part of police to prevent assaults and subsequent injuries.
This article was originally published on page 5 of Pretoria News on August 18, 2008