JOHANNESBURG – South African police started a manhunt to capture three men suspected of murdering national soccer team skipper Senzo Meyiwa two days ago, prompting calls for tougher gun laws.
The police issued composite pictures of two of the suspects in the hope that residents of Vosloorus, a township east of Johannesburg, where the killing occurred, would recognize them.
“We believe that the people in the community will know who these suspects are,” police spokesman Neville Malila said on Johannesburg-based eNCA television. “These photos were compiled with the help of witnesses that were at the crime scene and now it is up to the community.” Malila didn’t immediately answer calls to his mobile phone seeking comment.
Meyiwa, 27, was killed during a suspected house burglary. The goalkeeper led the national soccer team, known as Bafana Bafana, in its last four matches, without conceding a goal. He was also captain of Soweto-based club side, Orlando Pirates. The president of the South Africa Football Association, Danny Jordaan, urged the government to introduce stricter laws to curb the possession of illegal firearms.
“Isn’t it high time we introduce the Senzo Meyiwa gun law?” Jordaan said in an emailed statement Monday. “There are too many illegal guns around.”
Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega told reporters in Johannesburg Monday a multidisciplinary task force has been established to investigate the murder. Police offered a reward of as much as 250,000 rand ($22,900) for information leading to the arrest of three suspects who fled on foot.
Meyiwa’s family, who live in a township near Durban, have hired private investigators to try and find the killers, Johannesburg’s “702 Talk Radio” said, without saying where it got the information.
Former police chief Bheki Cele, who was criticized soon after being appointed in 2009 for telling police officers to “shoot to kill” when facing armed criminals, said he’s ready to help fight crime again after the death of Meyiwa, Johannesburg-based Beeld newspaper reported Tuesday. Cele was appointed as deputy minister of agriculture in May after being fired as head of the police in 2012 because of a graft scandal.
“Give me my orders and my uniform and let me solve the problem,” Cele said, according to the report. Cele’s spokeswoman, Nonkululeko Mbatha, didn’t immediately respond to a message on her mobile phone seeking comment.
South Africa’s murder rate, almost seven times that of the U.S., increased to 32.2 per 100,000 people in the year through March, rising by about 800 homicides to 17,068, according to police data released on Sept. 19.
During Cele’s term in office, the murder rate fell each year, reaching 30.9 per 100,000 people in the 12 months through March 2012, according to police data.