South Africa is united in grief after fallen hero Senzo Meyiwa was laid to rest at an emotional service in Durban on Saturday.
Not since the funeral of world statesman, Nelson Mandela, last December, has there been such an outpouring of emotion.
The Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana goalkeeper and captain, Meyiwa, was shot dead in a botched armed robbery in Vosloorus outside Johannesburg last Sunday.
There was an immediate outpouring of grief as the nation tried to come to terms with the senseless tragedy.
What made the 27-year-old’s death more heart-wrenching was the fact that his appointment as national captain had coincided with a remarkable turnaround in the team’s performance.
After all, in the first four fixtures of the African Cup of Nations qualifying matches, he didn’t concede a single goal.
Meyiwa also played an instrumental role in Orlando Pirates’ successes over the last three seasons.
His sterling performances helped to propel his club to its second African Champions League final last year.
An emotional Bafana Bafana coach, Shakes Mashaba, on Sunday said that as much as he didn’t want to accept that his captain was gone, he had to accept it for the sake of finding closure to the matter.
“Senzo never stopped smiling even when the chips were down. He once told me he had no time to get angry.
“What has upset me of all things was that Meyiwa died when he was starting to realise his cherished dream of leading the national team to dizzy heights. I have no words to describe my emotions,” said Mashaba.
Within hours after his death, national police Commissioner Riah Phiyega set up a multi-disciplinary task team made up of forensic, crime intelligence and visible policing members to handle the case.
A suspect has been positively identified and arrested in connection with the crime.
The tragedy also galvanised leading soccer administrators into action with shaken SA Football Association President, Danny Jordaan, calling for a law to remove all illegal guns.
“We will take those guns to the furnace and build a statue of Senzo Meyiwa,” Jordaan said, adding that they wanted to unveil the statue before the team departed to the African Confederations Cup in 2015.
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has announced that a national sporting Hall of Fame would be built to house and display the memorabilia of all South African sport heroes including Meyiwa’s.
In other developments related to the tragedy, the SA Football Association announced that Bafana Bafana’s qualifier match for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations against Sudan had been switched from Mbombela to Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban.
This was as a mark of respect for Meyiwa who was born and raised nearby.
Meanwhile, football federations from across the world joined millions around the globe in paying tribute to the star who captained both his club and country.
The Nigeria Football Association (NFA) and those of Kenya, Uganda, Jordan, Sao Tome e Principe conveyed their condolences to the Meyiwa family, his club Orlando Pirates and the entire country.
On Saturday, Meyiwa’s body arrived in an Audi Q7 at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban — one of his favourite stadiums — as thousands of mourners looked on.
The hearse was accompanied by a police brass band while the roar of vuvuzelas (trumpets) saluted the fallen hero. It was a fitting tribute to a magnificent icon.
As South Africa starts coming to terms with this senseless loss, it has become evident that the legacy of Senzo Meyiwa has been cemented and he will continue to leave his mark for years to come.