Alleged wrongful arrest an addition to Jhb woman’s abuse trauma

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A Johannesburg woman is accusing the police of wrongful arrest and of adding to her trauma of being abused by her ex-husband. Avanti Naidoo says that her ex-husband had physically abused her for years and that she fears for her life despite having a protection order against him.

She says he’s now resorted to psychological abuse and had recently laid a false charge against her that resulted in her spending last weekend behind bars. This comes at a time when the country is observing 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence (GBV).

“When he scolded me, I was shaking, trembling, I didn’t know what to do.”

After just a year of marriage, Avanti Naidoo began to see traces of her husband’s abusive tendencies. It began with verbal abuse and his constant need to see her slogging. Naidoo says that he isolated her from her family, even during her mother’s final days. She says that as time passed – the mental and emotional torture intensified.

“He used to pick on my weight, control my eating. Nobody knows this, my family would be devastated – I used to starve most of the time. I would cook the best food, he and kids would eat and I would hardly or not at all. I used to make roti, puri – he wouldn’t allow me to eat. If I’m eating popcorn and he felt I had enough, he’ll take the bowl away from me and his daughter.”

Naidoo had no children of her own and had been raising her now ex-husband’s kids. She says that one day, as she was leaving home to drop off her niece in Pietermaritzburg, something triggered a violent reaction that unleashed a string of events that would soon end in divorce.

“As I grabbed the key he said you f..k.n b. He grabbed my hand and pushed me against the kitchen wall. He flung me against the trellidor, he’s slapping me, punching me, beating me. He’s got me on the ground, his daughter is in her room, I screamed. This child came and said please stop hitting my mother. He somersaulted me and my head hit the armrest of the couch and I blacked out. That’s where I got a concussion. He stood up and he says, “Come, Come”.

I said, “I’m not a man, I’m not going to come at you” He got frustrated, he gave me.”

Naidoo says that on that very day, she took her keys and fled, knowing that the marriage was over. Regular brutal assaults over the years, she says, meant that she was a frequent visitor at the Richards Bay police station and court in KwaZulu-Natal. Naidoo moved to Johannesburg to begin a new life, away from her abuser. But before leaving, she sought a protection order.

Two years later – she says, her now ex-husband entered her life once again, to seek revenge. She says, he allegedly went to the Randburg police station in Johannesburg last weekend and opened a false case claiming that she had punched him and stolen his vehicle. The police acted and arrested her.

“Two police ladies knocked on my door, they wanted to take me in for a statement for domestic violence and malicious damage to property. I said I did not see him, the last was December 2018, these two ladies were just not listening. So I went, she says “You are under arrest” and they kept me there. I just sat on the floor, it was full of flies, stinking. I said how is it right that you’ll are keeping me here without evidence, he said, “We can do that”. There was no case, they lied to me, they made me go, they did not even show my lawyer the file. The police were wrong in what they did, they have to answer, I can’t let this slide.”

Naidoo is accusing the police of wrongful arrest. She says she’s the victim and yet she’s the one being punished. She says the Randburg police ignored her pleas that the charges are trumped up.

Just last week, People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) handed over memorandums to Police Minister Bheki Cele and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head, Advocate Shamila Batohi, calling for greater support for survivors of gender-based violence. POWA Counselling Services Manager, Itumeleng Moloko, says the authorities are lax in administering protection orders.

“This is what we are fighting for with the police, proper investigations. They cannot just jump and arrest. A lot of women complain that they don’t get fair treatment when they get to the police station. When they report cases they are told to go home and sort out their issues. But once a man reports that they are being abused by a woman, they are quick to act. This cannot be that in 2020, we have women who are suffering so much and ill-treated by the criminal justice system. Protection orders are effective, they have advantages and disadvantages. In most cases, when women have protection orders and they call the police, police drag their feet and tell you there is no transport.”

Meanwhile, Gauteng police spokesperson, Mathepelo Peters, says Naidoo’s case is filed under the domestic violence act and has advised that she lodges a formal complaint against the police over their conduct.

“I want to advise the woman, that if she has any complaints against the police, to lodge a formal complaint, if she feels that there was any wrongful act. What has transpired is that the docket was taken to court and however the prosecutor did not place it on the roll and gave the police further instructions which the police are working on now and they will have to come back to the prosecutor to make a decision.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa has described gender-based violence in the country as a pandemic. But it won’t be dealt with if women, who are becoming more courageous and speaking out about abuse, are not supported by the criminal justice system.

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