Durban - South Africans turned out in huge numbers in Durban on Saturday for the
funeral of national football captain and goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa, whose
murder last weekend shocked the nation.
The star footballer, who had just turned 27, was gunned down by an
intruder at the home of his pop singer girlfriend south of Johannesburg.
Family and friends were joined by government officials and the top
names in South African football among a crowd of 30,000 at the ceremony
at Durban's Moses Mabhida Stadium, broadcast live on television.
The crowd fell silent and many wept as Meyiwa's flag-draped coffin
was driven into the stadium in a white SUV, followed by members of his
club the Orlando Pirates, runner-up in last year's CAF Champions League.
Meyiwa's father wiped away tears, holding his head in his hands as a
giant screen broadcast images of his son's finest moments on the pitch,
while his mother, veiled in black, waved a gentle goodbye.
"Death is a thief that has stolen a bright shining light from the nation," Durban mayor James Nxumalo told the mourners.
"The entire nation is crying. We have all lost. Our condolences to
Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana (the nickname of South Africa's
national team). Our hearts are bleeding."
The goalkeeper grew up in Umlazi, a township near Durban on the Indian Ocean coast.
He was laid to rest under driving rain in the afternoon at the Heroes
Acre at Chesterville cemetery, usually reserved for martyrs of the
struggle against apartheid.
Vuvuzela trumpets sounded as mourners took turns paying their respects.
Meyiwa did not concede a goal in four recent Africa Cup of Nations
qualifiers as South Africa defeated Sudan, defeated and drew with Congo
Brazzaville and drew with defending champions Nigeria.
The star player was shot dead last Sunday after intruders entered the
home of his girlfriend the singer Kelly Khumalo, with whom he had a
young baby. His killers made off with a mobile telephone.
Meyiwa was still married to the mother of two of his other children
and the family initially refused Khumalo's presence at the funeral,
before finally relenting.
More than 17,000 people were killed in South Africa last year, but
the slaying of a popular sporting hero has stunned even this crime-weary
A 25-year-old man, Zenokuhle Mbatha, was charged Friday with murder
and armed robbery in connection with Meyiwa's killing after being
identified by witnesses.
"A national debate has begun and it is welcome," said South African
minister in the presidency, Jeff Radebe, paying tribute to "a hero who
contributed to the dignity of the nation".
Also attending the funeral were the country's football federation head
Danny Jordaan and Senzo Mchunu, head of the government of Meyiwa's
native Kwazulu-Natal, which has decreed a period of mourning.