The Pretoria high court has set aside Nomachule “Norma” Mngoma’s arrest and found the decision to confiscate her cellphones and laptops was unlawful, saying the Hawks had acted “with malice”.
Judge Cassim Sardiwalla also said the action of the two Hawks members who arrested the wife of former finance minister Malusi Gigaba “appeared to be motivated by an abuse of power by a former minister”.
The judge’s order did not, however, include a declaration that her prosecution – for malicious injury to property – was unlawful.
Mngoma was arrested in July last year after damaging a Mercedes-Benz G wagon that was being driven by her husband – by repeatedly scratching it. There was also an allegation – leading to a charge of crimen injuria – that she had sent an insulting text message to a friend of Gigaba’s.
In court papers Mngoma had filed in the Pretoria high court, she said the arrest was just a pretext: “The entire arrest was an orchestrated scheme to intimidate me, to bully me and ultimately to gain unlawful access to my gadgets, to delete specific information and to violate my privacy.
“The purpose for the deletion is completely nefarious, unlawful and potentially constitutes a criminal offence. That it has been perpetrated in conjunction with the Hawks is totally unconscionable.”
Sardiwalla ruled that the Hawks must return all information unlawfully removed from her devices and that individual members of the Hawks should pay the costs on a punitive scale.
This is a developing story.
By Franny Rabkin