President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Gallo Images
The video of a Daveyton taxi driver being dragged behind a police van is horrific, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.
"The visuals of the incident are horrific, disturbing and unacceptable," Zuma said in a statement.
"No human being should be treated in that manner."
He was referring to a video, taken by an eyewitness, showing police officers dragging Mozambican national Mido Macia, 27, behind a police van on Tuesday.
Macia was later found dead in the holding cells of the Daveyton police station.
Zuma condemned the death. He said the police were required to operate within the confines of the law in executing their duties. He extended condolences to Macia's family and directed Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to investigate.
Congress of SA Trade Unions spokesman Patrick Craven said the officers implicated should be suspended.
"At first, police officers claimed that he died after being attacked by other men in the police holding cells, but video footage taken by an eyewitness clearly shows him being tied to the back of the van and dragged along the street," said Craven.
He called for harsh punishment for those found guilty of Macia's death.
On Wednesday, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate confirmed it was investigating the matter and interviewing witnesses.
IPID spokesman Moses Dlamini said earlier on Tuesday two policemen switched on their siren, indicating that Macia should move his minibus, when they saw it obstructing traffic in Empilweni Street.
"It is also alleged that the taxi driver then assaulted the constable and took his police firearm. The warrant officer overpowered the taxi driver and handed the firearm back to his colleague," he said.
"When back-up arrived, the constable was still at the scene, struggling to put the suspect in the police van," Dlamini said.
Officers put the "resisting suspect" into the police van and took him to the police cells.
A post mortem indicated Macia died of head injuries and internal bleeding.
National police commissioner Riah Phiyega was deeply concerned about allegations that police brutality led to the man's death.
"The matter is viewed by the national commissioner in a very serious light and it is strongly condemned," her spokesman Brigadier Phuti Setati said.
Phiyega had instructed acting provincial commissioner Maj-Gen Phumzo Gela to start an internal investigation and provide feedback urgently.