The half-built face-brick double-storey house sticks out like a sore thumb between the modest homes on the quiet street in Adams Mission, south of Durban.
The roofless, windowless structure is a sorry sight for neighbours – but for Sam Meyiwa, the unfinished building is a painful reminder of unfulfilled dreams and a life tragically cut short.
This is the house his son had hoped Sam, his wife, Ntombifuthi, and the rest of the Meyiwa clan would love, laugh and make new memories in. But Senzo Meyiwa’s dream was dashed when the Orlando Pirates goalkeeper was shot and killed during an armed robbery at his girlfriend Kelly Khumalo’s mother’s house in Vosloorus more than three years ago.
Now, his heartbroken father is stressed about their abandoned dream home. Before his death, Senzo (30) reportedly spent close to R1 million on the house, but his family is too poor to complete the construction, which they say will cost an estimated R900 000. Recent media reports suggest the community wants the building demolished because teenagers are having sex in the house and thugs are using it as a hideout.
Sam, however, is quick to dismiss the reports when we meet him at his house in Umlazi. “I know the house needs to be cleaned but it’s not true criminals use it as their hiding spot,” he tells DRUM.
“There’s no such thing as residents wanting the house demolished. I don’t know where these rumours are coming from. If it was true I would be the first one to know.” According to Sam, Senzo had planned to build them a dream house, complete with a swimming pool, open-plan kitchen and enough bedrooms to accommodate the 10 relatives who live with Sam and Ntombifuthi in their four-room Umlazi home.
When we visit the site, there’s no sign of life inside the house and the roofless structure is covered in bushes and overgrown grass. It’s a sight that causes Sam pain. “This was meant to be our home,” he says. Sam tells us he’s arranged to meet local traditional healers to discuss the house because there’s been no progress for “at least two years”. After Senzo’s murder, Sam says many people offered to help them complete the house. “Among those people is businessman Vivian Reddy,” Sam says.
“He offered to help us finish building the house but nothing has materialised. We tried contacting his office, but haven’t been lucky.” Sam shakes his head solemnly before continuing, “That house has become a hole in my heart. I can’t even sleep at night thinking about it.”
As one of the country’s top goalkeepers, Senzo, who grew up with his three siblings in Umlazi, wanted to set his family up elsewhere. “He knew I was no longer comfortable living in the township because of the noise,” Sam says.
“I guess that’s one of the reasons he built that house.” Senzo loved the area, Sam adds. “He knew we were getting old and he wanted us to age gracefully at Adams Mission. We live in a four-room house that’s too small for all of us and Senzo wanted a place to accommodate everyone.” He’d planned to surprise his parents with the house, Sam says. “He started building it sometime in 2013 but he only told me in 2014, a few months before his death. We weren’t supposed to know until the house was finished but he was too excited, so he told me.” Tears well in Sam’s eyes as he recalls the day Senzo unveiled his grand plan.
“When we arrived at the site, Senzo held my hand firmly and showed me this facebrick structure. He showed me around, pointing to where the swimming pool and the rest of the rooms would be. “In that moment I felt very proud of my son . . . But now all those dreams have been shattered.” Hanging his head in despair, Sam says, “He will never see the final product of his work.” If they don’t get any help, the Meyiwa family will also not see Senzo’s dream come true.
“We don’t have money to finish the house,” Sam says. “Sometimes I’m tempted to sell the whole structure and move on with my life. “But I know I can’t do that because I’d be defying my son’s wishes.”
Senzo’s brother, Sifiso Meyiwa (36), regrets not being able to complete the task his younger brother started. “We haven’t been able to continue because no one is working except me,” says Sifiso, who works as an administration clerk at the South African Police Service. “If I had money I’d complete the house.”
Sifiso says the family aims to honour Senzo, in spite of the lack of finances and resources, . “Our intention is to continue with all of the programmes Senzo started or intended to start. That means completing the house at Adams Mission. “It also means activating the Senzo Meyiwa Foundation, which seeks to help the needy. The foundation will ensure his legacy lasts forever.” The foundation isn’t active yet but “we are talking to potential sponsors”, Sifiso adds.
Meanwhile, Vivian says the family is welcome to contact his office for help. “It’s not true that I promised to help continue building the house,” Vivian says. “Senzo’s father has been trying to get hold of me but failed. I’d encourage them to get in touch with the office and make a formal request, which the board will consider,” the businessman says. But some residents in Adams Mission say Sam needn’t worry about the house.
“As a neighbour and a community member, I have no knowledge that the house is going to be demolished,” says Mbuzi Makhanya, who lives nearby. “I’m also close enough to see everything that’s happening in that house, so I’d know.”
However, another neighbour says residents are worried. “We’re not sure what the plan is because it’s someone else’s property. The building is clearly abandoned and we’re worried that if it’s left like this it might become a home for criminals,” says the neighbour, who asked not to be named.
Traditional healer Mbongeni Makhanya says the community has no reason to be concerned. “It’s not true the building has become a home for criminals,” Mbongeni insists. “We’re keeping a close eye on that building.”
He says Senzo’s father has requested a meeting with him to discuss the future of the house but “I am still waiting for him to give me the date”. It’s not known when Sam will meet with the community leaders as the forlorn father spends a lot of time seeking justice for his son. “I just want justice for my son and I want to fulfil his dreams,” Sam says.
He was criticised for cornering Fikile Mbalula when he visited the Glebelands hostel in Umlazi on official business last year, but the devastated dad doesn’t regret asking the police minister to help find his son’s killers. “I’m not worried about people who speak behind my back because some of them don’t know the pain of losing a child,” Sam says of the incident. “I’m not overreacting and I don’t want the spotlight. If I don’t make a noise, no one will. I shall not fold my arms and keep quiet. I’ll fight until the end.”