Man sues for N$1m over rape charge

12 June 2020 | Justice

JANA-MARI SMITH

WINDHOEK



A Katima Mulilo police officer and his bosses are being sued for close to N$1 million by a man who was arrested six years ago on a rape charge he was cleared of two years later.

David Mbanga Mukela and three others were arrested in 2014 on rape and assault charges after a 25-year-old American Peace Corps volunteer was brutally assaulted by a gang of drunk men at Katima Mulilo in the early hours of 18 January.

The incident was described as a near-death experience by the rape survivor, who was hospitalised following the incident. She had been working as a volunteer teacher in Namibia.

She returned home to the United States before resuming Peace Corps work elsewhere in Africa later that year, and only returned to Namibia for the hearing in August 2016 to testify against the accused.

Mukela was arrested alongside Nicollans Silimwe Mapenzi, Heinrich Kasuka Numwa and Nsundano Abraham Nseka and kept behind bars for one year and three months.

The police at the time said the rape survivor had been violently attacked, her throat constricted, beaten with a bottle and raped.

Two years later, in August 2016, the case was dismissed by Katima Mulilo magistrate Bongani Ndlovu for lack of evidence.



Suing for damages

Mukela said his arrest and detention were unjustifiable and he was maliciously prosecuted without sufficient evidence.

He is also suing for the personal trauma he experienced as a result of the detention and widespread publicity the case attracted, which led to him being “labelled as a rapist” and ruined his good name.

The initial furore of media and public attention on the case swiftly died down in the wake of the first reports in 2014.

Only one media report was published two years later on the finalisation of the case and the dismissal of the charges against the men.



Flawed

Magistrate Bongani was critical of the sloppy police work, including the way the investigation was handled and police testimony during the hearing.

Bongani also criticised the police investigator, whose credibility he said was doubtful because of inconsistent testimony during the hearing.

“One is left wondering how he did his work on this case or how officers in the office of the crime investigation unit department at Katima Mulilo generally do their work,” the magistrate was quoted by Nampa.

He questioned the “wisdom of appointing inexperienced constables to such a case, [that] is just not right.”

Moreover, the magistrate said the only evidence the police had collected was a cap found at the scene.

Police spokesperson Kaunapawa Shikwambi confirmed this month that after the judgment, the case was closed and no further arrests were made.



Reputation ruined

Mukela's court papers argued that the “arbitrary and unlawful arrest, detention, inhumane and degrading treatment and subsequent malicious prosecution” gravely violated his fundamental and constitutional arrest and his rights to personal liberty and human dignity. Moreover, he wrote that he suffered substantial trauma as a result of the stigma and violation of his name following the reports on the arrests.

He is asking that the court award him N$600 000 for the emotional pain and trauma experienced and another N$300 000 for the overall wrongdoing against him.The three defendants - the minister of safety and security, the inspector-general of the police and the arresting officer, Warrant Officer Munangisha - have all indicated they will defend against the claim.

Last Friday, the case was referred to court-ordered mediation in August and postponed to 1 September for a status update.

The case has been assigned to High Court judge Marlene Tommasi.

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