Senzo Meyiwa: My Front Row Seat

It was just another Sunday like any other.  Go to church, if you do.  Do your shopping, if you do.  For others, it was laundry day.  And for some of us, it was work as usual.  Oh, I had done many Sunday shifts in the newsroom before, but the 26th of October 2014 takes the cake.  This time of the year was always going to bring back a lot of emotion into the country with the first anniversary of the death of Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirates goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa.  But as one of those who had the misfortune of working so close to the tragedy, I thought I’d give you my account of that week from the front row seat.

Having finished all I had to do on the sports desk, I left work at around 20:30, and got home at around 21:00.  I had not even put my keys down to sit and relax when I got a call from a friend of mine from a popular radio station who said:  ‘Dude, Senzo Meyiwa is gone.  I’ll call you back’.  I was confused.  I thought “ok how can Senzo sign for another team mid-season?”  Then I immediately looked at my phone to see the story on social media.

To my absolute shock, there were posts of the tragic news.  Still in disbelief, I called another friend of mine from another radio station and said to her: ‘What the hell just happened?’  And she too confirmed the news.  It was true.  Senzo Meyiwa had been gunned down in Vosloorus, and was no more.

Hysterically, I immediately got back into my car because I knew I had to go back to work.  I had to put a story together to put on the television.  I spoke to my editor on the phone on my way there and he told me exactly what to do, and what he wants from me.  I got back to the office and did exactly that and left very late.  By the time the story was being done by others in the morning, we had had it for at least a couple of hours already.

That was just the beginning though because I remember Orlando Pirates had called an emergency press conference the Monday morning at the Rand Stadium, and I was deployed there.  I arrived and there was this sense of seriousness about proceedings.  I had never seen so many OB vans for a presser.  Local and international media was there, to a point where there was no space to sit.  The entire Pirates staff was in attendance, from management, to players, to the cleaning lady and with all those people in one room, it was dead silent.  You could only hear coughs and sniffs.  No usual banter that takes place before a presser starts.  The tension was so tangible and understandably some players were inconsolable, particularly Thabo Matlaba and Rooi Mahamutsa.

Then walked in Dr Irvin Khoza with his entourage, among which was Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba, SAFA CEO Dennis Mumble, and was joined a few minutes later by Kaizer Chiefs chairman Kaizer Motaung.  The Iron Duke then made the official announcement, followed by the speeches from the other gentlemen at the top table.  But one that sticks to mind is the one made by coach Mashaba.  He was very emotinal and made it very difficult to have a dry eye in the room.

That day was very long day with interviews with Bobby Motaung, Gavin Hunt, and I even had Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula on my show that evening.  It was one of the saddest shows I’ve ever hosted.  Particularly because we had done an interview with Senzo for the show in Polokwane during his last Bafana camp not so long prior.  But I think we did quite well and gave a fitting tribute to the man.

On Tuesday it was announced that the Soweto Derby, which was set to be played that weekend, had been postponed.  Of course this was a noble gesture and was to be expected from the PSL but because so many players who were not necessarily of Chiefs and Pirates wanted to go pay their last respects, it was announced later in the week that all fixtures that weekend would be put on ice.  Then the South African Football Association, together with the department of Sports and Recreation also announced that they will be holding a joint memorial service at the Standard Bank Arena for Senzo, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi; who had also died tragically in a car crash, as well as female boxer Phindile Mwelase who had died after being in a coma following a fight.

So you can imagine what a heavy week it was in the sports fraternity.  Again, I was deployed to work at the memorial service.  Live crossings, interviews with dignitaries, and a lot of running around was the order of the day.  But what was incredible was when the proceedings got underway and the fans started singing.  It was just a hair raising experience when they sang about all three of those sporting heroes.  And then walked in the mother of the nation Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.  And that’s when you realise that indeed the whole nation’s eyes are moist.

I then spoke to Danny Jordaan, president of SAFA.  Papi Kgomane, who was one of Senzo’s junior coaches, and Owen Da Gama, who gave Senzo his real first team experience, and the message was that not only have we lost a footballer, but also a great human being.  Then came the funeral itself, and I don’t think there’s a footballer who has ever received a more dignified send off.  An official provincial funeral held at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.  The nation had bid farewell to one of its heroes.

From there on it was a news story about whether his killers would be brought to book.  The SAPS gave us hope in the beginning, but nothing solid came off it.  There was an arrest, but later we were told it was a false arrest.  Since then I have consistently been reminding them that we have not forgotten with the #WhoKilledSenzoMeyiwa following a lot of my tweets and Facebook posts.  But one year on, I am sad to report that I still haven’t had an answer.  

What I can promise you though is that I will not stop until something comes up.  It cannot be that someone is killed and we just forget about it.  We will keep asking questions until we see #JusticeForSenzo  Alas, we live in hope.  And this was my Senzo Meyiwa experience.  I would also like to send my heart-felt condolences to Cecil Lolo’s family, friends, and Ajax Cape Town for the tragic loss of their son and fullback who perished in a car crash on Sunday.  Akwehlanga Lungehlanga.