It took just one day for Generations star Mandla Hlatshwayo’s alleged killers to be arrested and two weeks for Rhythm City actor Dumi Masilela’s hijackers to be tracked down.
Yet three years after Senzo Meyiwa was gunned down in cold blood, police don’t seem to be any closer to making arrests than they were in the first few days after his death. The thought of these crimes being solved so quickly runs through Sam Meyiwa’s mind daily.
The Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirates goalkeeper – the Meyiwa family’s sole breadwinner – was gunned down by armed robbers at the Vosloorus home of his girlfriend, singer Kelly Khumalo. All they want is closure, a devastated Sam tells DRUM.
The thought of his son’s killers still roaming the streets, free to spend time with the people they love, breaks his heart.
“It’s really frustrating for us that after so many years we still don’t know who killed him and why,” he says. “This makes me wonder about my son’s killers . . . they must be wealthy and well-connected to be able to hide the truth so well and for so long.”
The years since Senzo’s death have taken their toll. Ntombifuthi has suffered from recurring health issues related to high blood pressure since her goalkeeper son was killed. “It has been hard for us,” Sam says.
“The only time I don’t think of Senzo is when I am asleep. But I also struggle to fall asleep. Our lives are full of pain and sorrow, but we soldier on. I cry every time I think of him. I cannot rest until his killers are found.”
The family isn’t only experiencing emotional and physical difficulties. They’re financially strapped since Senzo’s death. He was the sole provider and they haven’t been able to do the necessary customary rituals to ensure his spirit is resting in peace.
They hope to do a ceremony to bring his spirit back home but meanwhile they’re living from day to day. “We are struggling, sometimes we don’t have food,” the elderly Sam says.
He feels they’ve been forgotten by those who made plenty of promises in the wake of Senzo’s death. During April last year, Premier Soccer League chairman Irvin Khoza made an announcement that Senzo’s R4-million insurance had been paid out.
Half was due to Orlando Pirates and the other half to the Meyiwa family. PSL players and officials are covered for injuries, and untimely death, in the insurance for the league. But Sam says they haven’t received a cent of that money yet. Nor has Senzo’s wife, Mandisa. “I talk to Mandisa often,” he says. “She hasn’t received the money. At least she’s working and she’s able to take care of her daughter.”
Sam claims every attempt to contact the PSL boss has failed and he’s growing resentful. Irvin had not responded to requests for comment at the time of going to print.
Sam’s pain is so great he can’t watch Irvin on television anymore.
“I change the channel because seeing him breaks my heart.” Senzo’s younger brother, Sifiso, helps the family keeps their heads above water, Sam says.
“He’s the only one working, and it’s hard for him. He helps where he can but he has his own life. Senzo was taking care of us and we were not struggling at all,” he adds.
“He looked after us.” When asked how the case is progressing, police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo says are no new leads in Senzo’s case. Fans were devastated when they heard how Senzo died. Two armed men stormed into Kelly’s house, demanded cellphones and shot the soccer player in front of witnesses. Zanukuhle Mbatha was initially arrested for the murder, but he was released from custody in November 2015 due to lack of evidence.
The case has now been referred to as a “cold case” by some but Sam says he won’t stop speaking about it. Some people have told him to quiet down, he says, but he refuses to be silenced – he wants justice to be served.
He also won’t be silenced by Kelly, he says. He alleges the singer sent him a lawyer’s letter, threatening to take legal action if he doesn’t stop talking about her in interviews. Sam has had a hostile relationship with Kelly since Senzo died. “I will not keep quiet because when I am quiet nothing happens. She also speaks about my son.”
Kelly refused to comment on the difficult relationship with Sam or his claims about her legal action.
“With all due respect, I have nothing to say.” The songbird, however, did offer a glimpse into her pain when she detailed Senzo’s last day in her Up Close and Personal with Kelly Khumalo concert in Johannesburg.
“Senzo ran into my hands. I thought he was trying to protect me from the intruders but he had blood on his chest and back – that’s when I knew he’d been shot,” she told the audience.
“We couldn’t even wait for the ambulance to arrive. We rushed him to hospital. I did everything I could. I didn’t want him to think I gave up on him.”
Sam doesn’t want anyone to think he’s given up on Senzo either. He believes his son’s death provided a platform for others to have a moment in the spotlight but nothing concrete has happened since.
In October last year, former acting national police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane told parliament the police didn’t need help in solving the murder. “The SAPS is more than capable of dealing with this matter,” he said at the time. But months later, he was moved from the portfolio and minister Fikile Mbalula took up the challenge, vowing to find Senzo’s killers.
“It’s one of my priorities to crack this case with the team,” he said during a parade at the SAPS Academy in Pretoria. “I’m very positive we’ll make arrests but I don’t want to tip them [the killers] off by divulging the plans we are going to use. Discussing our strategy we will give them ideas to evade arrest.” But Sam wanted more than empty promises, so last month he confronted the minister during a visit to the Glebelands Hostel in Durban, pleading with him to solve the case.
“I spoke to him [Mbalula] and he promised to assist. I don’t want to rush him because he is new in the portfolio and there is a lot he is doing,” Sam says. But still. The promises of those who are meant to serve and protect mean little for the family desperately seeking closure. All they want is to be able to go to sleep, knowing their son’s killers are paying for their crime.
*This article was previously published on Drum magazine.