Skip to main content

Father of dragging victim wants 'a lesson' for South African officers involved

By Errol Barnett and Faith Karimi, CNN
March 8, 2013 -- Updated 0830 GMT (1630 HKT)
  • NEW: Nine police officers are facing murder charges
  • "What the cops did was not justice, it was a crime," victim's father says
  • The video was captured by cell phone in Daveyton, near Johannesburg
  • The victim, a Mozambican taxi driver, died in police custody hours after the incident

Johannesburg (CNN) -- When Joseph Macia watched a video of his son's fatal dragging, a piece of his heart died with him.

Shaky but clear, it showed his son talking animatedly with police officers. He was then handcuffed to the back of a police van, writhing and kicking as it drove away slowly.

The crowd yelled as the vehicle accelerated, dragging his lower body on the road as it sped away .

Opinion: Why brutality is ingrained in psyche of South Africa

Taxi driver Mido Macia died a few hours later of head injuries suffered during the incident in Daveyton, near Johannesburg

TIME: S. Africa's 'culture of violence'

"I was shocked when I heard what happened and saw the video," the anguished father said Friday. "What the cops did was not justice, it was a crime. The cops need to be taught a lesson."

The video was captured by cell phone late last month, sparking outrage in a nation that has seen a series of police brutality incidents recently.

Nine South African officers appeared in court in Benoni on Friday to face murder charges in the incident.

Shock, questions

The video shocked the world for its brazen cruelty.

In it, Macia is seen in a red T-shirt and white sneakers, handcuffed to the back of a police van, which then pulled away. Officers and bystanders ran alongside the vehicle.

Macia, a Mozambican, died February 26 in police custody, hours after the incident, officials said.

His body will be transported to the Mozambique capital of Maputo for a funeral Saturday.

It is unclear what led to the altercation.

'Horrific and unacceptable'

Outraged officials vowed justice will be served.

"South African police service are required to operate within the confines of the law in executing their duties," President Jacob Zuma said. "The visuals of the incident are horrific, disturbing and unacceptable. No human being should be treated in that manner."

Tough action will be taken against those involved, the nation's acting police minister said, calling for a speedy independent investigation.

It was unclear how many other officers are involved in the incident. The commander of the local police station was also suspended pending an investigation, the South African Police Service said.

A harsh reminder

"We are shocked by this incident," said Moses Dlamini, a spokesman for the Police Investigative Directorate, an independent government agency that looks into possible crimes by police.

The incident was a harsh reminder of police brutality rampant in the nation.

The directorate received 720 new cases for investigation of suspicious deaths in custody or in other policing contexts between April 2011 and March 2012, Amnesty said.

"This appalling incident involving excessive force is the latest in an increasingly disturbing pattern of brutal police conduct in South Africa," said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International's southern Africa director.

In defense of the police force

But authorities defended officers, saying they are not a reflection of the entire nation's force.

"There are many other officers who are dedicated, who uphold the law and arrest criminals all the time," Dlamini said.

Under apartheid rule in South Africa, white police officers subjected the nation's black majority to inhumane treatment. But in this case, the man and police in the video, as well as those in the crowd, are black.

Apartheid rule ended in the 1990s, and the government reformed the police departments and made them more diverse.

A series of scandals

Despite the changes, the nation grapples with a high crime rate, including rapes, armed robberies and police brutality, analysts say.

South Africa's history of violence "is part and parcel of daily life," said Johan Burger, a senior researcher with the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria.

Some police officers believe that they "are above the law" and that there won't be consequences for their actions, he said.

South Africa's police force has been plagued by a series of scandals recently.

In August, officers opened fire on striking platinum miners in Marikana, killing 34 in one of the most deadly police shootings since the end of apartheid.

Last month, one of its officers -- Hilton Botha -- was booted from a high-profile murder case after prosecutors reinstated attempted murder charges against him.

He is accused of chasing and firing on a minibus full of people while drunk in 2011. He is charged with seven counts of attempted murder.

Botha was testifying in the trial of Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius, who is charged with killing his girlfriend on Valentine's Day. He later resigned from the force, citing personal reasons.

CNN's Errol Barnett contributed from South Africa and Faith Karimi from Atlanta. CNN's Nana Karikari-apau contributed to this report

Part of complete coverage on
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0023 GMT (0823 HKT)
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0046 GMT (0846 HKT)
A 9-year-old girl learning to fire a submachine gun accidentally killed her instructor at a shooting range, according to Arizona authorities.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
ISIS has made surprise gains in Iraq and Syria in recent months, but may begin to suffer setbacks on the battlefield.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
The fear of Russian invasion is receding but peace may still be tricky to find.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1228 GMT (2028 HKT)
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0815 GMT (1615 HKT)
Don't like the country you live in? Meet the people who created their own "micronations."
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 2157 GMT (0557 HKT)
The signs exist that indicate U.S. airstrikes into Syria are on the way.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1649 GMT (0049 HKT)
The mother of a hostage freed after two years captivity says it's not time to party.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 0946 GMT (1746 HKT)
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 0600 GMT (1400 HKT)
"I just love it when I get milk-to-dark converts," says Kerrin Rousset, before she leads a small cocoa-hungry crowd through Zurich's Old Town.