Johannesburg - Video footage of police arresting a Mozambican taxi driver for a parking violation in Daveyton and dragging him behind a police van following an altercation has gone viral, prompting a public outcry.
The taxi driver died in the police cells on Tuesday, the day of the incident.
The case is being investigated by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) – the police watchdog body – while the officers who allegedly committed the crime are still on duty.
“We have seen the video footage and we have obtained statements and have changed our inquest to murder,” Ipid spokesman Moses Dlamini said on Thursday.
Police spokesman Captain Alfred Makana named the taxi driver as Joseph Mido Macua.
A video released by the Daily Sun that has not yet been authenticated by Ipid shows several uniformed police officers and a few men in plain clothes struggling to drag Macua towards the van.
The video cuts and when it continues viewers can see the taxi driver’s hands tied, behind his head, to the back of the vehicle.
He sits on the ground, facing away from the police van, and initially the car backs up slightly and pushes into him.
It then drives off slowly, with one of the officers holding up Macua’s legs so that he does not touch the ground.
The van picks up speed and the officer can’t keep up, and Macua is dragged along the tar road, screaming as he tries to keep his body off the ground.
The van then slows down and the officer once again picks up his legs, but the vehicle again speeds off and the man is dropped and dragged towards the police station.
Macua was later found dead in the police cells by another officer.
An inquest docket was opened.
Dlamini said Ipid had attended the post-mortem and it appeared as though the man had died from head injuries, and had suffered internal bleeding and other injuries over his body.
It was unclear whether he had died from being dragged behind the vehicle, or had been assaulted in the cells.
“We are investigating every possibility,” said Dlamini.
Makana confirmed the allegations against the officers, but said the community refused to allow the police to let Macua be taken away in the back of the van, and had tied him up.
Four constables and one warrant officer were involved in the incident, but would not be suspended until the outcome of the Ipid investigation, said Makana.
However, Dlamini said the decision to suspend the officers or not was up to police management.
He said police confronted Macua about obstructing traffic, as he had apparently parked on the road, and he had responded aggressively.
As the officers were walking with Macua, he allegedly assaulted one of them.
“He overpowered him, beat him and took his firearm,” said Makana.
Makana said this was when the officers arrested him and took him to the van.
Dlamini said police told Ipid that one of the officers drove the taxi to the station and called for back-up after Macua took the gun.
But they received the video footage of the incident yesterday. “It appears to contradict what police are saying.”
He said investigators would return to Daveyton today to take more statements from witnesses.
“We are taking this matter very seriously,” he said.
Other dragging incidents
* On April 30, 2011, farmer Andre van der Merwe, 49, from Ottosdal in North West was held at gunpoint by gunmen who ransacked his house, shot him in the chest, back and head, then dragged him with his bakkie for about 1.2km before it rolled. Three men were arrested.
* On September 13, 2011, Kim McCusker was hit and dragged by a taxi for about 700m after she stood in front of it to prevent it from moving as the driver was having an altercation with her fiancée.
* In September 2011, Tankiso Sikhosana was allegedly assaulted by his former bosses, Johan Bornman, 33 and Theunis Schoeman, 32. He claims they assaulted him, put a plastic bag over his head, tied him to the back of their bakkie with rope, dragged him for a few metres and then stripped him naked. In August Bornman and Schoeman were acquitted.