If no amount of violence and brutality has ever shocked South Africa, this one did. A nation's immunity to pain, blood and gore finally broke down. It was all too much and this time there was national outrage.
From their living rooms, both white and black South Africans witnessed evil of the most despicable kind, brought to them by a 30-minute footage shown on the SABC's investigative programme, Special Assignment, on 7 November.
Six white police officers of the Northeast Rand Dog Unit, near Johannesburg, unleashed four police dogs on three alleged illegal immigrants (all black) at a deserted mine dump.
While the dogs tore chunks of body off the terrified victims, the policemen kicked and slapped them, laughed and hurled racial insults at them. They also stamped on their necks and faces as the hapless, bleeding victims pleaded for their lives, only to be met with the rhetorical questions: "Are you a kaffir (nigger)", and "Say you are a kaffir".
The three huge German Shepherds, in tandem with another large crossbred, attacked the men with such power and ferocity that one of the victims was lifted up in their jaws from a crouched position.
The footage was taken on 3 January 1998 by the brother of one of the police officers, who handed it over to the SABC on 29 October this year. All the officers, clearly seen in the footage, knew they were being filmed. They even turned to the camera and described their actions as part of a "recorded training exercise".
Apparently the unknown victims (said to be immigrants from Mozambique) were taken from custody, bundled together with the dogs and taken to the open field for a "training session." While there, the immigrants were released one by one for the dogs to chase and attack.
The police officers barked orders at the dogs and encouraged them to eat up the victims. Ostensibly, they were teaching the new dog recruits to be aggressive, with the victims as human baits.
The two ringleaders were identified as Sergeant Kobus Smith and Inspector Chris de Koch. Koch has since the incident been promoted to head one of the dog squads at the Unit.
South Africans of all races expressed their shock and revulsion. Most felt sick after seeing the footage. Over...