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Police brutality in South Africa brings up uncomfortable memories of the past

A photograph shows a man who appears to be tied to a police van. Photo: Eyewitness

South Africa’s President is often accused of being slow to condemn, even when condemnation seems like the right response to everybody else.

But tonight Jacob Zuma effectively summarised the public disgust, which followed the release of images of 27-year old taxi driver Mido Macia, being shackled to the back of a police van and dragged down a street. He called the video “horrific, disturbing and unacceptable”.

And yet those adjectives do not quite express why this act of apparent brutality has hurt so many South Africans so much.

To comprehend this, look to the police violence which punctuated the apartheid years and still shapes the suspicion of the state that a great number of South Africans have today: the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, the Soweto uprising of 1976, and many more.

Democracy was meant to end all of that, yet subsequent dates have shattered that hope: The Marikana mine massacre in 2012 and now, perhaps, the death of Mido Macia in 2013.

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