The man, 27-year-old Mido Macia, was taken to the local police station where he later died of his injuries.
The cellphone video, posted online by the Daily Sun, at first shows the man arguing with two police officers. There is a scuffle, then three more officers arrive, they wrestle him to the ground before attempting to bundle him into a vehicle. As a large crowd of people watch, Macia is then handcuffed to the back of the vehicle and dragged down the street.
Macia was taken to the Daveyton police station in Gauteng, where police filed charges of assault with intent to commit grievous bodily harm against him. He was found dead a few hours later. His crime: obstructing traffic. Police claim he also assaulted officers and tried to take one of their weapons. A post mortem carried out on Wednesday showed the official cause of Macia's death to be head injuries and internal bleeding.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate is said to be investigating the incident but could not be reached for comment on Thursday morning.
A statement released by the office of national police commissioner Riyah Piyega said the incident was "noted with deep concern" and the matter was viewed "in a very serious light and is strongly condemned".
In April 2011, Andries Tatane, a community organiser and teacher, was filmed being beaten by police during a service delivery protest in Ficksburg. He later died from his injuries. Almost two years later, the case against the seven police officers involved has yet to be resolved.
A few weeks later, a police officer shot and killed a woman after she crashed her car into a stationary police vehicle. As Jeanette Odendaal lay dying, the officer who shot her allegedly declined to call for help, saying: "She's dying already; there's no point in calling the ambulance."
But there are scores of cases that never make it to the mainstream media. Hundreds of deaths occur in police custody or as a result of police action every year. In 2008 and 2009, 912 died in such circumstances.
Last year, there were 720 complaints to the directorate about deaths at the hands of police. In the same period, 18 officers were convicted on charges related to the deaths.
Although the directorate's annual report for 2011/2012 says that it is focusing on police torture, it mentions only two cases, that of Tatane and another, dated June 2011, in which three policemen were arrested for torturing a suspect to death in Harburg, KwaZulu-Natal, for allegedly smuggling tobacco into the cells.