Tied to a moving police van - beaten to death in a cell?

Murder investigation launched after suspect is found dead hours after being abused by officers

Johannesburg

The images are grainy, but the content is clear. Less than three minutes of video, shot on a mobile phone and posted online by a newspaper in South Africa, has sent fresh shockwaves through a nation already reeling from the Oscar Pistorius murder case.

Warning: Graphic content in video

The video begins innocently enough: an argument between a police officer and a taxi driver who is causing an obstruction with his minibus in Daveyton, east of Johannesburg. But it quickly descends into a physical altercation, and the crowd of onlookers begins to whistle and yell. And as the uniformed police officer, joined by his colleagues, handcuffs the slender man in a red T-shirt to the back of a police van, his hands outstretched behind his head, curiosity turns into alarm with shouted warnings in Zulu: "We are going to film this!"

Despite the audience, the police officers continue to torment the young man, picking him up by the ankles as the police vehicle pulls away, then dropping him as it accelerates. Their victim is still attached, his legs dragging along the Tarmac.

Just over two hours later the taxi driver, Mido Macia, 27, a Mozambican migrant, was found dead in a police cell. The newspaper which initially published the footage, The Daily Sun, says that others detained with him claimed he was beaten in custody.

South Africa's police watchdog, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), announced it had launched a murder investigation after a post mortem examination revealed that Mr Macia died after suffering injuries to his head and upper abdomen, as well as internal bleeding. The officers involved claim that Mr Macia assaulted one of them, grabbing their gun, before being overpowered.

In a nation still coming to terms with the deaths of 34 platinum miners who were killed by police in Marikana, east of Pretoria, last year, the video was met largely with frustration and disgust. An inquiry into the shootings continues, while anger is still raw following allegations of heavy-handed police action against striking farmworkers near Cape Town this year.

On social networks South Africans labelled the Daveyton police "animals", while others mused how little has changed since the end of apartheid. South African President Jacob Zuma described the incident as "horrific, disturbing and unacceptable. No human being should be treated in that manner," he said.

Last night South Africa's Police Union said it was mortified by the video. "It tarnishes the good name of the men and women in blue who do work really hard, and serve the country. We are shocked, angry. If they're found guilty – they must face the full might of the law," spokesman Theto Mahlakoana said.

Amnesty International estimates that the IPID was called to investigate 720 new cases of suspicious deaths involving the police between April 2011 and March 2012. Rights groups and think-tanks are calling for a broader commission of inquiry into the actions of the South African Police Service. Cameron Jacobs, the South Africa Director of Human Rights Watch, said: "This is not the first time that we've seen acts of brutality or excessive force. It's also deeply concerning that this incident involved a foreign national. There are worries that this may have played a part."

Gareth Newham, who runs the governance, crime and justice programme at South Africa's Institute for Security Studies, says he's not surprised.

"The illegal use of force happens daily. It's widespread, usually directed at vulnerable groups, and mostly unrecorded," he told The Independent. "They want to punish, not just restrain. They want to establish fear."

Newham's think tank estimates that there were more than 1.6 million arrests in South Africa last year and reports that civil claims against the police have doubled in three years.

He says South African police officers are told to be tough. "Take no nonsense, show no mercy, shoot to kill, they're told. And then, when they get away with it, it becomes routine." As The Independent went to press, a police spokesperson confirmed that the officers in question have not yet suspended.

Civil claims against the South African Police Service have doubled in the last three years

Law and disorder: The death toll

This is the latest of a series of high-profile cases of apparent police brutality in South Africa. First, 34 striking workers at Lonmin's Marikana mine were gunned down in August, in what was called the most deadly police action since the end of apartheid. Police said they were acting in self-defence, though the miners were said to have been unarmed. Later, police were accused of planting weapons next to the bodies of those killed.

Then, this month, after Oscar Pistorius was arrested on suspicion of killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, the detective in charge of the investigation, Hilton Botha, was found to be facing attempted murder charges. He is accused of firing at a minibus taxi carrying seven passengers in 2009, killing all on board. The charges had existed before the Pistorius bail hearings began, but accusations such as these against police are seen as so commonplace that the media paid little attention.

The process of demilitarising the police began when Nelson Mandela took power in 1994. But more recently, under Jacob Zuma, the country has seen a return to "tough policing". The police argue they are targets of violence, and around 100 officers are killed every year. But estimates say more than five times that number of civilians are killed by police each year. And little is being done to address the problem.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
people70-year-old was most famous for 'You are So Beautiful'
News
people
Life and Style
fashionOne man takes the hipster trend to the next level
News
John Rees-Evans is standing for Ukip in Cardiff South and Penarth
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'