The Mozambican taxi driver who died after being dragged behind a police van was facing culpable homicide charges himself, a South African court heard today.
Images of Mido Macia, 27, were broadcast around the world after several police officers were filmed handcuffing him to the van on the outskirts of Johannesburg. He was found dead hours later in a police holding cell, lying half dressed in a pool of blood. Eight police officers were arrested for his murder, with a ninth turning himself in as the others appeared in court to apply for bail.
The mother of Mr Macia’s partner wept as the results of a post-mortem were read out in court today. The second autopsy – ordered after an initial report blamed his injuries on a fight in jail – described a horrific, extensive series of wounds on his body.
Mr Macia died of hypoxia – a lack of oxygen – but he also sustained deep cuts to his arms, possibly in an attempt to defend himself, and there were bruises over his body, his face and his genitals. Almost all of his internal organs were damaged, and he had suffered bleeding around his brain.
Prosecutors said in court that a witness can testify that when Mr Macia was taken to the cell, he was crying, bleeding, and trouserless. They say the level of violence inflicted on his body means that officers knew what they were doing could result in his death.
All nine maintain their innocence, with only two even mentioning the public dragging incident, suggesting instead that Mr Macia attempted to assault an officer prior to his arrest.
Defence attorneys have now alleged that Mr Macia may have been involved in an accident just days before his death in which five schoolchildren were killed. They gave few details of the incident, but insinuated that some of the taxi driver’s injuries may have been a result of this accident.
The state prosecution has vehemently opposed bail, primarily on the basis that the officers accused of Mr Macia’s murder would have access to key witnesses, including colleagues in the police service, as well as material evidence, some of which they say has already gone missing. Testifying in court, Mandla Mahlangu, the lead investigator from South Africa’s police watchdog, said proper procedure was not followed in the hours after his death.
Two of the nine officers accused have pending charges against them for attempting to pervert the course of justice. The state argues that they should be kept behind bars.
Lawyers acting on behalf of Mr Macia’s family, most of whom returned to Mozambique for his funeral on Saturday, have confirmed that they will be instituting civil proceedings against the Minister of Police. The bail hearing is set to continue tomorrow.