South Africa’s police force has a reputation for brutality and street executions, but the worst case this year involved a young taxi driver from Mozambique. On Feb. 28, police approached the man and charged him with improper parking in Daveyton, east of Johannesburg. A shocking scene erupted as police handcuffed the man to the back of a police van and dragged him through the streets. A large crowd stood by and watched, helpless, as the terrible events unfolded. According to a Feb. 28 BBC News article, the victim has died in his cell. He was 27 year old Mido Macia.
The three officers claimed that Macia assaulted one of them and took away his firearm. This was after officers claim to have found his taxi obstructing traffic and told him to move it. There is no video record to support officer’s claims of being attacked. According to a Feb.28 article in Voice of America, some members of the crowd called for the police to stop, but they ignored them and continued to drag the victim.
The police did not include the dragging in their report and the video was not widely seen until the Daily Sun, a South African newspaper, published it.
Despite head injuries and internal abdominal bleeding, police left Macia in his cell with no medical attention. The medical examiner has confirmed that the injuries caused his death.
Other jail inmates said the police continued to beat Macia after police brought him into the jail.
The victim tried to run to keep up with the van. The officers stopped the van, got out to move Macia’s legs so he would drag, then got back in and drove on.
There is no confirmation that authorities have suspended the officers despite obvious indications of inappropriate behavior as evidenced in the video, and despite the presence of a large crowd of witnesses.
Backup officers arrived to find police still trying to stuff the victim in the back of the van. They took the man to jail rather than to the hospital and kept him in custody.
According to the 2012 Annual Report by Amnesty International, the South African government established an agency it calls the Independent Police Investigative Directorate. Despite the video evidence, this agency claims to be investigating whether police dragged Macia behind the vehicle.
Amnesty International reports a national total of 797 deaths while victims were in police custody. Some deaths were acts of extrajudicial execution. South African police like to target refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers like Mido Macia.
Last August, police shot and killed 34 striking miners at the Marikana platinum mine in South Africa’s North West province. President Zuma established an investigation that is still not completed.
South African police are slow to act, if they act at all, in cases of police brutality and other crimes. In 2011, Hilton Botha was the lead detective in the Oscar Pistorius murder case. According to a Feb. 21 article in the UK Guardian, Botha faced seven counts of attempted murder for shooting at a minibus taxi. Police dropped the charges in 2011 and renewed them this year on Feb. 4. Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend on Feb.14, ten days later. Still, a detective facing attempted murder charges was assigned to the most high profile murder case this year.