The graphic scenes of the victim struggling for his life shocked a nation long accustomed to reports of police violence.
"The visuals of the incident are horrific, disturbing and unacceptable. No human being should be treated in that manner," said South African President Jacob Zuma.
The Daily Sun, a South African newspaper, posted video the footage Thursday and it was quickly picked up by other South African news outlets and carried on the Internet. It sparked immediate outrage about police behavior.
"They are there for safety, but we as a people fear them more," said Johannesburg resident Alfonso Adams. "You don't know who to trust anymore."
Some of those in the crowd who watched the scene unfold in the Daveyton township east of Johannesburg shouted at the police and warned that it was being videotaped. The police did not seem at all concerned by all the witnesses and the presence of cameras as they tied Mido Macia, a 27-year-old from neighboring Mozambique, to the back of a police vehicle, his hands behind his head. At least three policemen participated in the incident. Macia was found dead in a Daveyton police cell late Tuesday.
"We are going to film this," several onlookers shouted in Zulu as the police tormented Macia. One bystander can be heard on the videotape shouting in Zulu: "What has this guy done?"
A murder probe is underway on the evidence that Macia suffered head and upper abdomen injuries, including internal bleeding, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, the police watchdog agency, said Thursday. The injuries could be from the dragging and he could also have been beaten later in police custody.
"The allegations are that he was dragged behind a vehicle and his head was bent on the police vehicle. There are also allegations of assault," said the investigative unit's spokesman Moses Dlamini.
The video evidence of the abuse renewed concerns about brutality, corruption and other misconduct by a national police force whose reputation has suffered in recent years amid reports that many officers lack training. Some have been charged with committing the crimes they are supposed to prevent, including rape and murder.
"As horrific as it is, it is not exceptional. Hardly a week goes by without such stories of brutality," said Jacob van Garderen, national director of Lawyers for Human Rights.
At first, Macia, dressed in jeans and a red T-shirt, is dragged along the road by the vehicle at slow speed, the footage shows. He awkwardly tries to keep step even though he is almost horizontal above the ground. Then the van stops, two policemen pick up the legs of the taxi driver and drop them to the ground as the van picks up speed and drives off, beyond the view of the camera.
The police watchdog agency said the incident started just before 7 p.m. on Tuesday when the cab driver was allegedly obstructing traffic with his vehicle. Then Macia allegedly assaulted a constable and took his weapon before he was overpowered, the police investigative unit said.
Macia was found dead in a cell over two hours later by another policeman, according to the watchdog agency.
National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega "strongly condemned" what happened. South Africans are "urged to remain vigilant and continue to report all acts of crime irrespective of who is involved," said Phiyega in a statement.
Culled from FoxNews