JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Hundreds of mourners, including politicians and colleagues, gathered on Wednesday for a memorial service for Mido Macia, the Mozambican taxi driver who died in a South African cell after being dragged behind a police vehicle.
Footage of the incident was broadcast globally last week, rekindling memories of apartheid-era police abuses. Eight police have been arrested on suspicion of murder and are expected to appear in court on Friday.
“As a society we are bleeding. We are grieving. We are in pain. We just don’t know how to deal with the pain,” Graca Machel, the Mozambican wife of former president Nelson Mandela, told reporters at a Johannesburg soccer ground where the service was held.
The video of last Tuesday’s incident, captured by an onlooker, shows minibus taxi driver Macia scuffling with police after he illegally parked his vehicle.
He is subdued and then tied to the back of a pick-up truck by his arms before the vehicle drives off in front of scores of witnesses in the east Johannesburg area of Daveyton.
Macia, 27, was found dead in detention with signs of head injuries and internal bleeding, according to an initial post mortem report.
“The police are used to terrorizing people here in the township, especially the Ethiopians and Mozambicans,” said Sonnyboy Ndlovu, an attendee at the service who witnessed the dragging incident.
Police commissioner Riah Phiyega last week blamed the killing on a few bad apples in a massive force, but deaths at the hands of police are commonplace in Africa’s largest economy.
According to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, the police’s main watchdog, there were nearly 1,000 cases last year of people dying in police custody or as a result of police action.
The incident is the latest in a series of scandals to hit South Africa’s police force, already dogged by a reputation for brutality, corruption and incompetence.
The lead detective in the murder case against track athlete Oscar Pistorius was removed from the investigation when it emerged he was facing seven attempted murder charges, accused of opening fire on a minibus full of passengers.
Police shot dead 34 striking workers at a platinum mine in August last year - the deadliest security incident since apartheid ended in 1994.
“Prison is not enough to punish those who murdered my husband,” Macia’s widow, Biuda Mazive, told Radio Mozambique this week. “Those who committed this crime will come out of prison, but my husband will never come back.”
Reporting by Jon Herskovitz, Marina Lopes and Reuters Television; Editing by Alison Williams