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Government on Saturday moved swiftly to repair the reputational damage caused by the brutal murder of a taxi driver at the hands of the police.
Taxi driver Emidio Macia was handcuffed to a South African police patrol van and dragged along the street on Tuesday. A witness filmed the assault.
Macia died in the local police station’s cells later that day.
Yesterday, the Department of Home Affairs said it would assist the family to acquire documents required to repatriate Macia’s remains to Mozambique for burial. The Gauteng provincial government also pledged to assist his family, particularly his dependants.
“In pursuance of this contribution, the Home Affairs Department is in contact with the Mozambican Embassy in Pretoria and has also visited relatives of Emidio Macia in Daveyton, Benoni on Friday to discuss the sort of documentation that the family would require to give Emidio a decent funeral,” said spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa.
He said the embassy was in contact with Macia’s father in Mozambique to finalise funeral arrangements.
The eight police officers accused of killing Macia spent the weekend in custody and are expected to appear in court tomorrow on murder charges.
Video footage captured on a mobile phone shows officers attaching the 27-year-old Mozambican to the back of their van and brazenly speeding off before a crowd of horrified onlookers.
Macia was found dead in a police cell two hours later in Daveyton, east of Joburg.
National Police Commissioner General Riah Phiyega moved swiftly. She expressed her “extreme shock and outrage” over the video footage, as she announced the officers involved had been suspended and the local police commander removed from his post.
Phiyega said she fully supported the investigation by the police watchdog agency the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) - and added the rights of Macia were “violated in the most extreme form”.
Investigators are said to have been told that the taxi driver assaulted one of the police officers and took his gun.
But the Daily Sun this week revealed new video footage which appears to contradict officers’ version of events. It appears to show the cab driver arguing with police officers with his hands by his side, before he is manhandled to the ground by up to five men in uniform.
The scandal is only the latest to undermine confidence in South Africa’s police, heaping yet more shame on a force that opened fire on striking workers at the Marikana platinum mine in August last year, killing 34 people.
It also comes as the Oscar Pistorius murder trial puts the country’s criminal justice system in the spotlight.
Macia was arrested in Daveyton on Tuesday evening. An anonymous witness told a local newspaper: “(Police) argued with Macia and then they beat him up. They handcuffed him to the back of the van and slammed the door in his face. With blood running down his face they drove off. He was in pain. He cried and asked the cops to stop, but they continued anyway.”
The IPID, which has launched an investigation, said the probable cause of death was head injuries with internal bleeding.
Spokesman Moses Dlamini said investigators had been told Macia was asked to move his minibus taxi by two policemen because it was blocking the road.
Macia then allegedly assaulted one of the officers and took his gun, before officers managed to put the “resisting suspect” into the van to go to the cells.
But a prisoner who was in the police station said: “They killed him. They beat him up so badly in here.”
The incident has prompted a furious backlash in South Africa.
Frans Cronje from the South African Institute of Race Relations said: “It is a level of barbarity on a par with police behaviour at Marikana.
“We strongly support the police use of force to meet the criminal onslaught. But this is an ill-disciplined and brutal rabble that have lost all respect for themselves, their jobs and the societies they work in.” - Tribune Reporter, Sapa and Daily Mail.