South African officers in court over dragging
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 .
Taxi driver Mido Macia died a few hours later of head injuries suffered during the incident in Daveyton, near Johannesburg
"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.
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.
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