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Cape Town - As eight policemen appear in court on Monday charged with the murder of taxi driver Mido Macia last week, former Intelligence Services Minister Ronnie Kasrils has called for President Jacob Zuma to dismiss the minister of police and the national police commissioner in the wake of the death.
In a letter to the Cape Times, Kasrils said he had warned of increasing police brutality when he left government four years ago.
“In any civilised democratic society one would see either resignations or suspensions of the chiefs of police or dismissals by the head of state,” Kasrils said.
Macia, 27, was dragged behind a police van and died of head injuries last week in Daveyton, east of Johannesburg. Amateur video footage went viral on the internet, made international news headlines and has set off a wave of anger against the SA Police Services.
Eight policemen – two warrant officers and six constables – were suspended, disarmed and arrested last week and are expected to appear in the Daveyton Magistrate’s Court on Monday for Macia’s murder.
National police commissioner Riah Phiyega also had the Daveyton police station commissioner removed from his position.
Police minister Nathi Mthethwa was on honeymoon.
Kasrils said he had not expected that “along with so many ordinary South Africans I would witness in a democratic South Africa abominations such as the police killing of Ficksburg activist Andries Titane; the Marikana massacre of striking mineworkers; the shooting of protesting farm labourers in the Cape winelands, and now this latest bloodcurdling imagery of a Mozambican taxi driver being dragged to his death behind a police van.”
He said he had become concerned about “reports of beatings and torture in police cells; the attacks on protest demonstrations; the “shoot to kill” exhortations of police ministers; reports involving police corruption; use of conspiracy theories to deal with opponents of government; and the move to strengthen the powers of the government security cluster by dubious means”.
Meanwhile, opposition parties on Sunday demanded that President Jacob Zuma set up a judicial commission of inquiry into police brutality.
“It’s not enough to merely ask questions about specificincidents such as Marikana and Daveyton. This country needs to know there is a plan to ensure they are not repeated over and over again,” said DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard.
Annual reports of police watchdog the Independent Complaints Directorate (now the Independent Police Investigating Directorate, Ipid), show there were more than 4 000 deaths in police custody between 2006 and 2011, including 698 in 2006/07, 792 in 2007/08, 912 in 2008/09, 860 in 2009/10 and 797 in 2010/2011.
“It gives me no satisfaction to have publicly warned, along with others, that our country needed to be on guard against the sinister growth of security powers and the culture of police brutality,” Kasrils wrote.
On Sunday Moses Dlamini, spokesman for Ipid, said the eight officers had not yet pleaded but had been charged with murder.
A post-mortem found he died of head injuries.
On Sunday Dlamini said a second post-mortem was expected but did not say when.
Home Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said officials had visited Macia’s relatives and were helping where they could with necessary documentation, including a death certificate.
Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane’s spokesman Thebe Mohatle on Sunday said Macia, who had rented a shack in Daveyton, had one dependent, a seven-year-old son who was enrolled at a local school.
“We’re committed to taking care of his needs in terms of education,” Mohatle said.
It was not yet clear if the boy would go to Mozambique to stay with relatives or remain with relatives in Daveyton.
The Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution called on the police minster to report to Parliament on what would be done to ensure police were properly trained.
Refugee campaigner Braam Hanekom, director of People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (Passop), said immigrants, particularly those who did not have documents, were often “subjected to excessive humiliation and violence when detained”.
KwaZulu-Natal had the most deaths in police custody (268), followed by Gauteng (217) and Eastern Cape (120).