The South African Police That Dragged a Mozambican Taxi Driver Behind Their Vehicle


New York TimesSouth Africans Outraged After Police Drag Man

The title of this story primes the audience to view the police as the aggressors and the citizens as good and innocent. An activation tag here is the word “Outraged”, thus the audience will be primed to respond in anger and disgust. Just below the heading a picture is shown taken in South Africa of protestors in action outside of a police station. Considering that New Yorkers are far removed from South Africa and its culture, it is appropriate and effective to put them in the scene via a picture with so much action. The police are framed as speechless and defenceless, showing a sign of guilt, while the protestors are furious and full of words. Their body language is also highly accusatory, which frames them as victims and the police as bad guys.

The story then follows the inverted triangle layout of presenting the news. However, the first sentence doesn’t answer the ‘what’ as usual, but rather mentions “the footage”. It is also hyperlinked, and this is likely to inspire most readers to link to the video immediately or once they have read enough of the story. The fact that the footage is mentioned first tells the reader it is a ‘must-see’. Immediately following the first short line, the pyramid follows the normal structure: “A slender black man… is tied to the back of a police truck.” After the introduction, a single line asked by bystanders asks, ““What did he do?”” The addresses the ‘how’ or ‘why’, but doesn’t answer it as it is likely it was unknown to the writer of this story at the time.

The mere fact that this story was covered on the New York Times implies the importance of the issue to readers. The agenda of the population of South Africa is emphasised by the telling of this story. The use of quotations adds to the trustworthiness of the story, especially due to the fact that these were from people at the incident when it happened. The story has clearly been tailored for international audiences, considering “South Africans” in the header. Another reason is the line, “After 1994, when apartheid ended and the African National Congress was voted into power in the country’s first fully democratic elections…” as this is implied knowledge for locals of South Africa, but not for internationals.


Times LiveTaxi driver dies after being dragged by police vehicle – with video

Being a South African online news website, the audience is very much immersed in the culture and its subtleties. We as South Africans are used to hearing about the negligence, incompetence, and brutality of the SAPS. Thus this story is of interest to locals that have already decided on their agenda, and therefore it has been reported. The title of the report primes us for empathy for the taxi driver, while we are primed for disgust and anger towards the South African Police Service.  The “with video” in the title keeps the reader on the page, as people often prefer to watch real footage of an incident opposed to reading about it. This also illustrates how the report has been tailored for audiences that are far less interested in reading than they are of watching videos.

The still image below acts as an activation tag as it shows the man in distress and utter terror being dragged by the police vehicle. What this image does is provoke sadness in the reader, who then cannot but read the rest of the report through the veil of a fellow citizen seeking justice for such a horrible crime. The introduction of the report opens with a quote from Moses Dlamini (the Independent Police Investigative Directorate spokesman), who is a source that adds reliability to the report.

The report goes on to give direct, indirect, and partial quotes from Dlamini. The function of switching between these different ways of reporting quotes is to keep the reader interested and not make it too monotonous. The use of quotes by Dlamini addresses the reader’s concern, which is regarding the punishment that the police officers involved will receive.

The final quote of the report is also from Dlamini, which says, ““They [policemen] are only saying they locked him [up] and he was found by another police officer, but we are investigating.” This again frames the police service in a negative light, as they are being investigated not only for dragging the taxi driver but also for assaulting him. Dlamini is framed as good in this report, as he is addressing the reader’s concerns.


News 24Cops probed for taxi driver’s death

The South African public are used to hearing and reading of purely negative news regarding the SAPS, and therefore the activation tags have become quite simple for news reporters. In this case the word “Cops” is the activation tag that immediately primes the audience for their staple response towards the police force and their indiscretions. This response is that of anger and fear; anger towards them and fear that we as the public are supposed to be protected by the police, not threatened by.

While the header is viewed first, the picture is the very next thing that grabs attention. It is simply of a constable, although it has been deliberately framed to guide the audience’s emotions and interpretations in a particular way. Namely, the face of the constable is not shown, and while this could just be for safety reasons (not having someone find him and take revenge); it also has the effect of “you don’t know who your true enemies are”. His anonymity and his neck and partial face being shrouded in shade also put the SAPS in an unsavoury light. His badge showing “Police” is at the centre and bright, and this is almost ironic, as it emphasises the duty of a policeman, while in this story the actions performed are highly contradictory to the responsibilities of policemen.

The report has been personalized for an audience less inclined to watch such disturbing footage, which explains the disclaimer: “Warning: Not for sensitive viewers”.



Polgreen, L. 2013. New York Times. Available: [28 March 2013]

SAPA. 2013. Times Live. Available:—with-video  [28 March 2013]

SAPA. 2013. News 24. Available:  [28 March 2013]





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