Johannesburg (AFP) – Thousands of South Africans jammed into a Johannesburg sports stadium Thursday to celebrate the life of South African football captain Senzo Meyiwa, whose murder during a robbery has stunned the nation.
Decked in the colours of the national team, of Meyiwa’s club the Orlando Pirates and rival clubs, fans rubbed shoulders with government ministers and sporting luminaries to mark the loss of their 27-year-old talismanic captain.
In the stands they chanted, danced and sang; “Senzo Meyiwa, akekho ofana naye” — there is no-one like him — reprising anti-apartheid struggle songs in Meyiwa’s name.
“Love is stronger than death” a pastor told the crowd, before a rousing version of the national anthem.
Meyiwa was shot dead last Sunday when burglars broke into his pop-star girlfriend’s home some 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of Johannesburg, before making off with a cell phone.
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 nation.
“It is just very sad today,” said Springbok rugby captain Jean De Villiers, who was present at the memorial, which also remembered the lives of two other recently fallen sporting heros.
Phindile Mwelase, a female boxer, died after spending two weeks in a coma following a bout and world 800-metre champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi died in a car crash a week ago.
On Thursday police denied that they had arrested two people in connection with Meyiwa’s killing, but a manhunt continues.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the ex-wife of late president Nelson Mandela, also attended the memorial.