Mozambique buries taxi driver dragged by S. Africa police
MATOLA, Mozambique (AFP) – Mourners in Mozambique on Saturday buried a taxi driver who died in custody in South Africa after officers cuffed him to their van and dragged him through the streets.
Crowds gathered at a cemetery in Matola, a city next to the capital Maputo, where Mido Macia was laid to rest under a sprawling Jacaranda tree.
Sadness tinged with rage marked the ceremony as supporters from the 26-year-old’s childhood town and neighbouring South Africa paid their last respects.
“We are revolted, not just angry. It was torture what happened to him,” a friend of Macia, Xinguinhane Vuma, told AFP.
On February 26 Macia was filmed by bystanders being manhandled, handcuffed to the back of a police van and dragged hundreds of metres in Daveyton, east of Johannesburg.
He was found dead in his cell two hours later, having suffered severe head and internal injuries.
“Our feeling is very deep. We hope he rests in peace,” Vuma said at the graveside.
Around 2,000 people crammed into the cemetery, among them several government officials and Mozambican liberation hero and elder statesman Marcelino dos Santos — signalling how much the brutal crime has shaken the country.
Members of Macia’s family wept uncontrollably as they laid flowers on his grave. His wife and young son had to be supported as they made their way to the graveside accompanied by city officials.
The sheer numbers of mourners prompted the priest to dispense with tradition, limiting those allowed to throw earth on his coffin to family members alone.
Footage of the taxi driver’s death spread quickly online and sent shock waves across the world, shining a spotlight yet again on the conduct of South Africa’s much-maligned police force.
Nine South African police officers have been charged with his murder, but denied the charges in a bail hearing on Friday.
Macia’s coffin arrived in Mozambique during the night, and mourners could view his body Saturday morning before the funeral at the Nelson Mandela primary school nearby, named for South Africa’s struggle hero and first black president.
Friends described him as a humble man and spoke of the profound shock his death has caused in the community of Matola Rio where his father is a local leader.
Leaving the cemetery Jossefa Macia said the family would now focus on getting justice for his son.
“Those bad men who killed my son are bandits,” stony-faced Macia told AFP.
His wife Juanita mourned the death of her last living child.
“I am sad because my son died and I do not have another. He was the last of my children,” she said.
Before the funeral, the NGO Human Rights League marched to the South African High Commission in central Maputo.
“Down with xenophobia,” chanted the crowd of around 80 people, brandishing banners with the words “Stop Humiliating Mozambicans” and “Mido Macia forever”.
South Africa sent foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to Maputo on Thursday to meet with Mozambique President Armando Guebuza and try to soften the diplomatic embarrassment over the incident.
Ordinary South Africans who travelled especially for the funeral said the killing showed their country had not yet dealt with its violent past under white minority rule and intense distrust of migrants.
“I feel like we are not done with apartheid. We are not done with xenophobia,” said Diana Khoza, who drove 200 kilometres (124 miles) from Nelspruit, the largest city before the Mozambique border.
The officers charged with the killing insist they are innocent.
In court affidavits they alleged Macia had resisted arrest and assaulted police when he was confronted after barring the road with his minibus taxi.
The van driver said he did not know someone was being dragged behind his truck, but none of the accused explained how Macia ended up cuffed there in the first place, nor how he died.
On Wednesday around 1,000 people attended a memorial for Macia at the sports stadium in Daveyton, the town where he lived and died.
On Friday around 200 people held a candlelight vigil by his coffin at his house before his body was transported to Mozambique.