GRACA Machel, the human rights activist and wife of Nelson Mandela, has warned that South Africa is an "angry nation" teetering on the brink of "something very dangerous" if extreme levels of violence in the country are not addressed.
Mrs Machel said the anger came from "unaddressed" issues around South Africa's apartheid past, adding: "We have to be more cautious about how we deal with a society that is bleeding and breathing pain."
She and her husband have previously refrained from sharing their views about how the nation is being run since he left the presidency 14 years ago.
Mrs Machel was speaking at the memorial service on Wednesday of Mido Macia, a 27-year-old taxi driver who died in custody after he was tied to the back of a police van and dragged for 500 yards by officers, apparently for arguing over a traffic infringement, in a town west of Johannesburg last Tuesday.
The death of Mr Macia has reignited concern among South Africans that the brutality of their criminals is now matched only by the violence of their police force.
Mrs Machel told a cheering crowd that the "increasing institutionalisation of violence" was creating a police force "actively aggressive towards a defenceless public".
"South Africa is an angry nation," she said. "We are on the precipice of something very dangerous with the potential of not being able to stop the fall. . . The level of anger and aggression is rising.
"This is an expression of deeper trouble from the past that has not been addressed. We have to be more cautious about how we deal with a society that is bleeding and breathing pain."
Mrs Machel's comments will be devastating for the African National Congress, which has ruled South Africa since apartheid. They coincide with a growing number of attacks on the country's leadership by other prominent figures, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former president Thabo Mbeki. (© Daily Telegraph, London)