JOHANNESBURG: South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma on Monday led a shocked nation in voicing outrage at the killing of national football captain Senzo Meyiwa after the talismanic goalkeeper was shot dead outside Johannesburg.
The 27-year-old was killed late Sunday at the home of his pop-star girlfriend Kelly Khumalo after an altercation, in a slaying that stunned the crime-weary nation.
“Words cannot express the nation’s shock at this loss,” said Zuma, amid a national outpouring of grief.
Zuma said police must “leave no stone unturned in finding his killers” and bringing them to justice.
Fighting back a flood of tears, national football coach Shakes Mashaba described Meyiwa as a “very kind person” who was the first name on his teamsheet.
Police have offered a reward of 150,000 rand ($14,000) for any information leading to his killer’s arrest.
This is just the latest tragedy to befall the country’s sporting fraternity.
South Africa is still reeling from the death of former world 800-metre champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi who died in a car crash on Friday and the jailing of fallen Paralympic hero Oscar Pistorius, who killed his girlfriend.
Pirates management on Monday said news of Meyiwa’s death had hit the club hard, with a players’ meeting on Monday seeing “uncontrollable” sobbing and crying.
Meyiwa’s South African team-mate Dean Furman was among the first to react to the tragedy.
“Beyond devastated at the loss of our captain and friend Senzo Meyiwa. Thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this terrible time,” tweeted England-based Furman, who plays for Doncaster Rovers in the third-tier of the English league.
Dennis Mumble, the Chief Executive Officer of the South African Football Association, said “The country is crying.”
Into the limelight
Police Lieutenant-General Solomon Makgale said Meyiwa was gunned down at a house in Vosloorus, a township about 30 kilometers south of the Johannesburg at around 2000 (1800 GMT).
Makgale said that the motive behind the attack remained unclear.
“There was an altercation and Senzo Meyiwa was shot. The three suspects fled on foot after the shooting.”
“We can assure South Africans that we will do all we can to bring Meyiwa’s killers to book.”
Police later said there were seven people inside the house, including Meyiwa, when two suspects entered and another remained outside.
After many years in the South African football shadows, Meyiwa had a meteoric climb to fame with his club the Orlando Pirates.
Meyiwa played for his club in Soweto Saturday and has been in outstanding form for the national team during recent 2015 Africa Cup qualifiers.
He displaced national squad goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs as first-choice at Pirates, the only South African side to be crowned African champions.
And a recent injury to South Africa captain and goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune gave Meyiwa a chance in the national team, popularly known as Bafana Bafana (The Boys).
New national coach Mashaba not only promoted Durban-born Meyiwa to replace Khune but also made him captain of a team that has been in the doldrums for some years.
Meyiwa responded to his promotion by leading the team to victories over Sudan and Congo Brazzaville and draws with Congo and Nigeria, a country South Africa traditionally struggle against.
He did not concede a goal in the four matches and if South Africa defeat Sudan in eastern city Nelspruit on October 15 they will qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations tournament. AFP