'They have killed us inside'

11 March 2013 - 02:11 By Graeme Hoskens, Daniel Born took pictures

Crouching, Jossefa Macia leans over a neatly folded white sheet, softly mumbling a prayer, his head nearly touching the ground.

Repeatedly he rocks back and forth, his eyes closed, hands clasped tightly, lips moving slowly - inaudibly. He is oblivious of everyone and everything around him. For Macia the moment is sacred. He cannot skip a step.

Police keep a respectful distance.

The spot marks the exact place where just two weeks ago his son Mido, a Mozambican taxi driver, was allegedly brutally assaulted by nine Daveyton police officers. He later died in police holding cells.

Tuesday February 26, will be etched in his mind forever. This is the start of a slow and painful journey of nearly 900km home to free Macia's soul, which had been "trapped" in the confines of cell number four.

With close relatives and a spiritual healer next to him, Macia continues the cleansing ceremony. Over and over again he prays, his hands moving swiftly over the cloth, sprinkling tobacco where Mido died a slow, agonising death.

Just hours before, he spent 10 painstaking minutes in his son's bedroom just a few kilometres from the police station. Here he carefully wrapped Mido's badly beaten face in a white silk cloth in the coffin.

Before the journey could begin, Macia had to conduct the spiritual cleansing not only to set Mido's soul free but to purify the cell. With the coffin lying just metres away in the hearse outside the cells, Macia cautiously completes the ritual.

As angry residents, friends and relatives bay for the blood of the alleged police killers outside, Macia shuffles on his knees to the cell entrance. Trembling, he rises. It is time. It' s a 27-hour journey back to his home in Maputo .

It is not how it was meant to be.

Just a month before, Mido, when returning to South Africa, promised his father to continue sending money home to support his son, daughter, parents, siblings and extended family.

His meagre income was enough to make a difference.

Clutching a white cloth, Macia walks from the station as voices of anger spiral into the Friday night air. The police, hands nervously on their holstered firearms, prevent hundreds of Mido's supporters from entering the station.

The threats of violence change to victory calls as the 19-car convoy, with the hearse in the middle, leave. Waiting at Mido's family home - where he was born 27 years ago - is his mother Joaneta.

The darkness in the house is defeated by a single candle burning in a bedroom. Joaneta has been holding a vigil since her husband left for South Africa.

She has refused to watch the cellphone footage of the brutal attack by his killers, who handcuffed him behind a police van and dragged him to the station.

Joaneta is inconsolable. The pain on her face is tangible, her eyes dead. She finally receives her husband and the body of her son on Saturday morning, just hours before the funeral.

Screams of agony flood the house sparked by the realisation that her son is no more. The elderly couple continue their journey together to Mido's final resting place.

Thousands of mourners gather in queues stretching through numerous streets singing of loss as the hearse leaves the home.

"Why? Why did they do this? Why did they take him from me?" Joaneta cries as she leaves the grave and the single white rose she planted in the mound of sand.

To her son's killers she lays bare: "I am dead inside ... I have nothing. What is done is done. What more can I do? What more can I say? I am on this journey whose pain will never end."

Her husband just shakes.

"We are dead. They have killed us inside. We have nothing left but to go on with this journey alone."

'Humble' Macia's dream violently cut short

MIDO Macia's dream was for a better life - not for himself but for his family.

"That is how he was. The day he and his family left for South Africa, when he was just 10 years old, he said he would come back to help all of us.

"We laughed. We thought he was being silly but he stuck to his word," said his cousin Mario Mthimkulu.

"When his [Macia's] brother died, his children became his. He just carried on where his brother left off and he never said a word."

Mthimkulu said Macia was a friend, a provider, a confidant and his death had left a void.

"He would help everyone, even people he did not know. This loss is not just being felt now, but will be felt for years to come."

He said Macia's biggest dream was to make a difference in people's lives.

"When we saw each other over Christmas, he was so happy. He was helping so many of us, especially the children ... who did not have much. They keep on thinking uncle Mido will come through the door, but they don't understand he is gone, forever."

Nine policemen appeared in court on Friday accused of dragging Macia behind a police van and then brutally beating him to death. The eight officers initially arrested for his death are Meshack Malele, 45, Thamsanqa Ncema, 35, Percy Mnisi, 26, Bongumusa Mdluli, 25, Sipho Ngobeni, 30, Lungisa Ewababa, 31, Bongani Kolisi, 27, and Linda Sololo, 56. A ninth officer was arrested on Friday.

The court heard that Macia suffered extensive injuries, culminating in hypoxia - a lack of oxygen supply to the body - causing his death. The nine are back in court today .