EIGHT South African police officers have been charged with the murder of a taxi driver who was dragged behind a police van after a video of the incident became a symbol of police brutality.
• Eight police officers linked to death of taxi driver charged with murder
• Officers had been suspended from duty following death of Mido Macia
Friends and relatives of Mido Macia gathered yesterday in the township of Daveyton, to mourn the death of the 27-year-old who died after the brutal incident on Tuesday.
South Africa’s police chief General Riah Phiyega said she shared “the extreme shock and outrage” over the video of abuse of Mr Macia and said his rights were “violated in the most extreme form”.
Gen Phiyega said at a press conference that she stands by the integrity of her police force and insisted she will do her utmost to bring to justice those guilty of Mr Macia’s death.
The restraining and dragging of the taxi driver, who had allegedly parked in the wrong spot, was videotaped by members of a horrified crowd of onlookers.
He was found dead in prison a few hours later, suffering from injuries to the head and upper abdomen, including internal bleeding. The injuries could be from being dragged and he could also have been beaten afterwards in police custody.
“I stood with him, I talked with him. He was a very good man,” said Jafta Ndlovu, chairman of the taxi association, said after the service in Daveyton.
The scandal is the latest to undermine confidence in South Africa’s police force, which has expanded from 120,000 to nearly 200,000 over a decade.
“When dealing with 200,000 employees, it is never an easy environment,” Gen Phiyega said yesterday. “There will always be incidents such as this.”
Gen Phiyega said the police force would also have its own internal investigation and the Daveyton station commander had been removed “so that the investigations can proceed uninhibited”.
Despite the murder charges and Gen Phiyega’s promise of action, criticism of South Africa’s police mounted.
On the heels of president Jacob Zuma calling the incident “horrific, disturbing and unacceptable,” the ruling African National Congress party (ANC) said that “where police brutality is evident, stern action should be taken”.
The apparent total disregard of the Daveyton police of bystanders witnessing abuse, showed how such behaviour is rampant in the police force.
Mamphela Ramphele, the leader of Agang, a new opposition party, called the incident “an example of the culture of impunity which has taken root in our public service”.
She said “some members of the police – who are no longer a service but a force, as they were under apartheid – are behaving with unbelievable callousness”.
Beyond police brutality, the police force also must deal with mismanagement and a lack of training and resources.
The magistrate at last week’s bail hearing for Oscar Pistorius severely criticised the lead police investigator – who faces an attempted murder charges himself – for shoddy work in the investigation of the murder case against the double-amputee athlete, who is charged with killing his girlfriend.
Last year, police fired into a crowd of striking miners, killing 34 in a violence that reminded many of the worst brutality of the apartheid era.
Gen Phiyega said: “Any one death is a death too many.”
In Daveyton, there were concerns over how Mr Macia’s parents in Mozambique would be affected by the tragedy.
“He was the one who would buy them food and send it home to them,” said relative Badanisi Ingwenya. “Now because of this, there is no-one to support them.”