Eight police officers accused of handcuffing taxi driver Mido Macia to their patrol car and dragging him along the street until he died have been arrested 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.
Mr Macia was found dead in a police cell two hours later in Daveyton, South Africa.
The country’s police chief today said she shared ‘the 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.
General Riah Phiyega said she fully supports the investigation by the police watchdog agency and added the rights of Mr 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 South Africa’s Daily Sun today 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.
Mr Macia was arrested in the Daveyton township outside Johannesburg 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.’
South Africa’s Independent Police Investigative Directorate, 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 Mr Macia was asked to move his minibus taxi by two policemen because it was blocking the road.
Mr 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.
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 think-tank 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, the societies they work in.’