Senzo: we saw what really happened: Eyewitnesses describe Meyiwa's last moments

02 November 2014 - 11:33 By Mzilikazi Wa Afrika, Piet Reampedi, Stephan Hofstatter and Werner Swart
subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now
Sam Meyiwa waves to the crowd at his son Senzo's funeral at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban yesterday, when thousands of people turned out to bid their hero farewell
Sam Meyiwa waves to the crowd at his son Senzo's funeral at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban yesterday, when thousands of people turned out to bid their hero farewell

Senzo Meyiwa was locked in a life-and-death struggle with one of the gunmen who shot him dead last Sunday.

In a dramatic interview with the Sunday Times, his sobbing girlfriend, Kelly Khumalo, this week told of the anguish of seeing her loved one collapse in front of her.

Two other people who were in the house that fatal night also gave their versions of the horror that unfolded.

It has also emerged that the man who appeared in court in connection with the killing was arrested in a house just three streets away.

The Bafana Bafana and Pirates captain, who was buried in Durban yesterday, collapsed in the lounge of Khumalo's mother's house in Vosloorus, east of Johannesburg, after he was shot in the back last Sunday.

Just 30 minutes earlier Meyiwa had played with his daughter Thingo, who he called by her second name, Aphelele, before she was taken to bed.

This emerged from detailed accounts provided exclusively to Sunday Times reporters by three people who were present when Meyiwa was shot.

His girlfriend, her sister Zandi and her boyfriend Longwe Twala said two gun-toting assailants stormed into the house at about 8pm last Sunday shouting in Zulu: "Give us your phones and money!"

One was wearing a black hoodie and the other, who sported dreadlocks, had on a cheap leather jacket.

Khumalo ran to her mother's bedroom, chased by the assailant in the hoodie. A struggle ensued, with Khumalo trying to keep the door closed on him.

Not realising the man was armed, Twala charged at the second assailant, who fired a shot at the ground. Twala fled outside, followed by another friend of Meyiwa's, Mtho-kozisi Twala.

Zandi hid in the other bedroom, leaving Meyiwa, his friend Tumelo Madlala, Khumalo's four-year-old son Christian and her mother in the living room.

Then the dreadlocked attacker went to help his accomplice trying to enter the bedroom where Khumalo was hiding. Meyiwa and Madlala leapt up to stop him.

Khumalo carefully opened the door. "I realised that there were scuffles and fights all over the house," she said. Together with her mother, she tried to push the attacker in the hoodie out of the house.

She heard two gunshots. A third shot, which she didn't hear, hit Meyiwa in the back. "Senzo ran to me, and I thought he was trying to save me because the killer was still in the house. Then he fell on top of me," a distraught Khumalo said.

"When I turned him over that's when I saw the blood, because he was wearing a white T-shirt."

Khumalo, Zandi, Tumelo and Mthokozisi raced a bleeding Meyiwa to hospital, where he died 10 minutes after being admitted.

On Thursday, police raided the home of Zanokuhle Mbatha just three streets from the murder scene, and arrested him. He was positively identified in a line-up.

Police have stepped up security around him. On Friday, Mbatha made a secretive appearance in the Boksburg Magistrate's Court and is now under 24-hour police guard at a police safe house on the East Rand, the Sunday Times was told.

This is because of the community's anger over the murder and fears he will not be safe in the holding cells. Mbatha could be moved to Modderbee prison in Springs this week.

Members of the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department were also stationed outside Khumalo's mother's house this week after police were alerted to angry threats against the singer made on social media.

At least two other suspects are still on the run, but a multi-disciplinary police task team, led by Gauteng's head of detectives, Major-General Norman Taioe, are confident they too will be "rounded up" soon.

Over the past week several people bearing a resemblance to the identikits compiled by police were taken in for questioning, with some presenting themselves voluntarily.

The identikit described two suspects as having dreadlocks and gold upper teeth.

A police captain in Katlehong on Gauteng's East Rand said they were stunned when two men - completely unrelated to the case but with striking similarities to the profiles - entered the police station on Thursday morning saying they wanted police to "clear them".

Recounting the fateful day, Khumalo said she, Zandi, Meyiwa and Mthokozisi Twala had spent the previous night at her town house in Mulbarton.

In the morning they prepared to head for Soweto for her performance at the Summer Launch at Dorothy Nyembe Park in Dobsonville. Meyiwa was dressed in a white T-shirt, blue jeans and white Nike sneakers.

Their first stop, however, was Sunninghill, where Meyiwa had been invited for the birthday party of his Pirates teammate Rooi Mahamutsa.

"It was a beautiful day that turned into such a tragic and a horrible day. You know, we were happy in the morning. Senzo then said, OK baby, I will go there just to show face and to wish him well and we can all go to Dorothy Nyembe," a sobbing Khumalo said.

When they arrived, the party had not started. They had breakfast at Wimpy in Sunninghill before heading for Soweto.

The four then drove to Dobsonville where Khumalo performed.

Afterwards, Meyiwa drove to the house of the grandmother of former Pirates player Innocent Walaza in Dobsonville to greet her.

After chatting with the elderly woman, he gave her R200 and the four left.

They drove towards Khumalo's mother's house for dinner, stopping en route at Twala's house in Spruitview so that he could change clothes.

After Twala's house, they stopped at the Leondale off-ramp to pick up Meyiwa's friend Madlala, who had visited Johannesburg at the invitation of the star goal-keeper.

Now it was shortly after 5pm, and the five were on their way to Khumalo's parental home. But not before buying a few drinks.

Khumalo said: "Before we went to my mother's house, we went to a nearby tavern and bought drinks there. From there we went to my mother's house at Spruitview and chilled there. It was close to sunset. It was between half past five and six."

Shortly before 7pm, they were sitting around a table with Khumalo's mother and Christian, enjoying lamb curry.

Khumalo and Meyiwa went to the nearby spaza shop to buy soup and cold medicine for her mother.

When they came back, Khumalo said, Zandi and Longwe were in the house and Madlala and Mthokozisi were outside smoking. She left Meyiwa "with the boys outside and went in to drop [off] the soup".

Shortly before 9pm, the group were preparing to leave and Meyiwa asked Khumalo to say goodbye to her mother. But her mother asked Meyiwa to come and do so properly himself.

"Senzo and his friends walked into the house and while we were still bidding her goodbye, there was even a joke about ancestors and beliefs and whatever, singing.

"I was the one standing. Everyone was sitting down. I was dancing for them how ZCC members dance when singing and what not," Khumalo said.

She added: "While I was doing that, there was a guy who pushed the door open brandishing a gun. The other big one followed him. The dreadlocked guy in front and the hoodie one behind.

"As I ran into my mother's bedroom, the one in a hoodie followed me and we were fighting over the door. He was opening and I was closing. For some reason - I don't know whether he gave up or I won - he left the door."

Longwe said in a moment of panic he charged at one of the attackers, unaware he was armed.

"What happened is that I stood up out of defending myself and approached one of the thugs and tried to manhandle him.

"He pulled out a gun and he nearly actually got me and I managed to get out of the front door," he said.

"When I went out to get help that's when I heard the gunshots. The first shot hit the floor, the second one hit the door and the third one finally hit Senzo because I'd say they were having a man-to-man fight.

"Senzo basically was protecting Kelly."

Longwe said the door was not locked "because nobody thought this could happen because we were many, and it was Sunday you know. And it was quite early. The thugs came in round about 9pm.

"Basically when I left, automatically everyone stood out because both of these guys chased Kelly into the room because when Kelly saw them she escaped.

"So I don't know why both went for her, I don't know whether it was for her or whether they thought she was calling the cops. That's when Senzo and everyone else stood up to defend Kelly," he said.

"After the shooting, and after they ran off, we actually didn't notice Senzo was injured. But after a while he collapsed to the couch. He was quiet. When we took him to the car he was just trying to breathe. He didn't say anything. But apparently he tried to say something to Kelly when they were there, just before he died," Longwe said.

He added that the killers ran on foot but neighbours later said they had parked "a very old car" in the nearby street.

Khumalo said they loaded Meyiwa into his BMW X6 - which was "a struggle because Senzo was a huge man" - and she drove to the Botshelong hospital. "What we did was my sister was trying to keep him alive with a friend in the back seat. Mthoko was with me in the front. Then we drove to the hospital and when we got there we had to park at the emergency parking lot. My sister and I went out and called on the nurses to take him. They took him to the emergency room and about 10 to 15 minutes later, that's when he passed on," she said.

She informed the Meyiwa family through the late soccer star's sister, Nokuthula, before alerting Meyiwa's wife, Mandisa Mkhize.

subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now