Mistake ruins man’s life

Imprisoned wrongfully for a crime he did not commit, a 60-year-old man who is suing the State for R300 000 said his incarceration deprived him of crucial years with his family – including preventing him from attending his wife’s funeral.
Dumisani Sithole was taken into police custody in 2009 after allegedly being wrongfully convicted of impersonating a police officer and aggravated robbery. He was sentenced in 2011, appealed his sentence in 2012 and was finally released in 2013.
“I missed out on spending crucial years with my family. I missed so many special moments,” said the tearful Sithole, who is now trying to get his life back together.
In the years during his alleged wrongful incarceration from 2009 to 2013, Sithole’s wife passed away and his children each experienced milestones in their schooling careers.
The devoted husband and father of two was cornered by a police vehicle on Church Street on October 20, 2009, and taken into custody on allegations of being a part of a trio involved in the armed robbery of a 39-year-old man and making away with R15 000 on September 16, 2009.
According to trial court documents compiled by defence Advocate Martin Krog, Sithole was taken to Pietermaritzburg Central Police Station where he was told to join an identity parade along with eight other men.
The complainant pointed him out as one of the culprits involved in the robbery.
A police officer, who did not want to be named and was present during the identity parade, told Public Eye that the complainant initially did not recognise any of the men on the line-up, and was called outside to speak to other police officers. When the complainant came back, the elderly Sithole was pointed out.
“I was a bit concerned at the complainant’s credibility. He first said he did not recognise anyone. He then stepped out with one of my colleagues, came back and then pointed out the oldest man on the line-up.”
Sithole was found guilty of aggravated robbery and impersonating a police official. He was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2011 and was released after serving five years, following his appeal.
During the time of his imprisonment, Sithole says what hurts him the most was that he missed crucial years with his family.
“I was removed from my family without being given a reason why. I was thrown back into the world with nothing and no explanation again,” he said.
At the time, still reeling from her husband being found guilty of a crime he did not commit, his wife of 20 years died four months into his seven year sentence. “The love of my life … I lost her and I could not even attend her funeral. It broke my heart,” said Sithole.
In the same year, his eldest son matriculated, and his daughter started high school. “My children were going through milestones and I was not there for them as a father.”
Sithole is now trying to pick up the pieces of this life and is living with his two children in Caluza, Edendale.
He says despite serving a sentence for something he did not do, he has forgiven the man who pointed him out as the culprit. “I’ve sought peace. Whatever happened was for a reason. Only God knows.”

  AUTHOR
Bongeka Sibisi
Journalist

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