The young Mozambican father dragged behind a police car to a South African cell were he died was described by relatives and friends as a peaceful pillar of the community on Friday.
Milling about a dusty lawn in the impoverished township of Daveyton, east of Johannesburg, the family and friends of Emidio “Mido” Macia, a 27-year-old immigrant from neighbouring Mozambique consoled each other over his death.
Mournfully they are awaiting the arrival of Macia’s wife and four-year-old son from Mozambique — where they were on holiday — to finalise plans for his memorial service.
“He was a hard working guy very sweet,” said Sadia Ntiwana, the wife of Macia’s best friend. “He didnt like fighting at all. He was a very peaceful person.”
She described her long-time neighbour as a hardworking and loving husband who would rise at 4:00am and drive his taxi until 8:00 pm every day, in an effort to support his one son and nine other members of the household.
“It’s a great loss, because he was the breadwinner for the whole family,” Ntiwana said on the verge of tears and clearly exhausted by the ordeal.
Macia and his miner parents left the small Mozambique town that bears his surname 17 years ago.
His tale is a common one. A great number of legal and illegal immigrants crossing South Africas borders annually in search of economic opportunity.
These immigrants often face resentment from local community members, rival ethnic groups and institutions like the police.
Macia’s generous spirit appeared to have allowed him to transcend some of these boundaries, and he became a much relied upon figure in the ethnically-diverse streets of Daveyton.
“He was so helpful in the community,” said Lindiwe Nqwenya, Macia’s sister-in-law.
“Even if you had no money, if you called him he would come pick you up at the clinic and tell his passengers they must wait.”
Sikumbuso Beta, a 30-year-old immigrant from Zimbabwe, showed up at Macia’s doorstep four years ago with no money or place to stay.
“He was a good person to me,” Beta said, adding that Macia did not charge him rent to live in his house. “He would advise me sometimes, ‘Its not a problem if youre an immigrant. Were brothers.'”
While having no problems assimilating into this boisterous community of vendors and backyard entrepreneurs, Macia was not able to endear himself to the local police.
Many fellow immigrants gathered at Macias house Friday vented frustrations over what they perceive to be a long history of persecution.
“If you’re not from South Africa, they treat you like a dog,” said Nqwenya.
Macia’s fellow taxi drivers from Mozambique claim police commonly demand bribes from them for petty offences. They insist this is what led to the altercation between Macia and police officers after he illegally parked his vehicle.
“If you pay, they just let you go for such things,” sad Sipho Sitoe, a 38-year-old Mozambique taxi driver who was friends with Macia. “He didnt have money, and this is what happened.”
Police stated that Macia resisted arrest and disarmed an officer of his firearm.
A cell phone video shows him wrestling with officers before being handcuffed to the back of a police truck and dragged nearly half a kilometre down the street.
Macia later died in custody at the police station after allegedly being beaten by officers.
“The only thing we know is it was a real murder,” said Mozambique Ambassador Fernando Fazenda.
“He was killed by police in the most brutal way.”
Family and friends are vowing to not let his death be in vain.
“They always get away with these things. This is not the first time it has happened,” Ntiwani said.
“As a community we should stand up together and fight for justice.”