Trial starts 8 years after South Africa soccer star killed

·2 min read

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Testimony began Monday in the trial of five men charged with murder in the shooting death of South Africa national soccer team captain Senzo Meyiwa eight years ago.

The men are charged with killing Meyiwa in a house robbery in the township of Vosloorus near Johannesburg in October 2014. Meyiwa, who was 27, was shot in the chest at his girlfriend's family home.

The killing outraged South Africans, who are generally used to stories of violent crime in a country with a very high murder rate. Public anger increased after police took so long to make progress in the case. An initial suspect who was arrested in the days after Meyiwa's killing was released.

The five men now on trial were ultimately arrested and charged in 2020. The suspects face charges of murder, attempted murder, robbery and firearm offenses. They have all pleaded not guilty.

Police failures led Meyiwa's family to enlist the help of private investigators to track down his killers. That team of investigators is led by Gerrie Nel, the former state prosecutor who gained worldwide fame for being the chief prosecutor in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius.

Nel made some dramatic claims when the five suspects were arrested two years ago, saying they were part of a plot to assassinate the popular goalkeeper in a planned “hit." Nel also said the “mastermind” behind Meyiwa's killing had still not been arrested.

He repeated those claims this month.

“I have said it all along that I do not believe that this was a robbery that went wrong," Nel said after a pre-trial hearing. “The police have a very good idea of who the mastermind is and I am sure that if the mastermind is not added to the indictment, there will be other indictments in the future.”

Leaked prosecution documents at the time of the suspects' arrests indicated that police wanted to obtain the cell phone records of Meyiwa's girlfriend, a famous singer and actress in South Africa. The documents stated she might have been in contact with one of the suspects before the killing, although she has not been arrested or charged with any crime.

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Gerald Imray, The Associated Press

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