Johannesburg police were on Friday looking for three men driving a blue Volkswagen Polo believed to have been involved in the murder of reggae star Lucky Dube (43).
Dube was shot dead in a botched hijacking in Rosettenville at about 8.20pm on Thursday night, said police spokesperson Captain Cheryl Engelbrecht. The singer was travelling in a grey Chrysler with his two teenage children at the time.
Engelbrecht said Dube had dropped off his son and daughter, aged 15 and 16, when he was attacked. The killers fled the scene, leaving the musician’s car behind. The children were unhurt.
“His son was already out of the car. When he saw what was happening, he ran to ask for help.” The boy was too traumatised to provide police with any information, she added.
Melvin Khumalo of Gallo Records — Dube’s recording company — was not willing to comment on the incident, saying the company was attending to Dube’s family.
The Pan Africanist Congress on Friday expressed its “shock and anger” at Dube’s “cold-blooded murder”.
“It signifies yet again how much criminals disregard human life,” said party coordinator Modini Maivha. “We pass our condolences to Lucky’s family and the families of other victims of violent crime in the country. We call on the government to empower citizens … by releasing crime statistics regularly.
“This will enable us to appreciate the levels of crime and galvanise South Africans to do more to help our under-resourced police force.”
The African Christian Democratic Party also sent its condolences to Dube’s family and called for the reinstatement of the death penalty. The party’s Western Cape representative Hansie Louw said in a statement: “Will the death penalty not reduce the senseless killings? There is no respect for life.”
Tough times growing up
Dube, born in Johannesburg on August 3 1964, was named “Lucky” as he was born in poor health and doctors thought he would die, according to Wikipedia. But Dube survived and went on to become a front-line artist in the reggae genre. However, the singer’s website, Luckydubemusic.com, says: “Giving birth to a boy was considered a blessing and his mother considered his birth so fortunate that she aptly named him Lucky.”
Born into a single-parent family, times were tough for a black boy born into poverty under the Group Areas Act and the pass laws of the time. Dube’s parents had separated before he was born. His mother was the only breadwinner in the family and was forced to relocate to find work, leaving Lucky and his siblings, Thandi and Patrick, to be cared for by his grandmother.
Dube began working as a gardener at the age most children enter school. He later joined a school himself. Although clearly underprivileged and despite being taught in
Afrikaans, he excelled and joined the school choir. He was a natural performer and when the choirmaster walked out of the practise session one day, Dube took over. His popularity among his teachers and peers grew dramatically, according to his website.
He went on to record more than 20 albums in his music career, which spanned more than 20 years, according to Luckydubemusic.com. His albums include Rastas Never Die, Think about the Children, Soul Taker and Trinity. His latest, released in 2006, is called Respect.
The build-up to this international success, though, started in 1982 with the release of Kudala Ngikuncenga, an album that was not reggae but mbaqanga, a genre that was to serve him well for four more albums until his transition to reggae in 1985.
“The change was brought about by the fact that I wanted to reach the world. With mbaqanga I would have been seen as a tourist musician,” he told the Mail & Guardian in an interview in 2001.
“Don’t waste your time and mine,” a concert promoter told Richard Siluma, Dube’s producer at the time. “No one wants to hear reggae.”
By 1987, Dube was the sole reggae star among South African “disco” acts and established music acts such as Brenda Fassie, Stimela and the Soul Brothers.
His introduction to the international stage was heartening, such as when he was invited to play at the Sunsplash Festival in Jamaica in 1991. He recalled how the spiritual home of reggae had been waiting for him and his band. “We knew they love the music. They said we remind them of Peter Tosh.” On the final evening of the festival they were called back for an encore — and for another performance the next year.
The reggae sensation, who did not drink or smoke cigarettes or marijuana, despite the association of the substance with Rastafarians, had won more than 20 awards for his music contribution locally and internationally. He is the only South African artist to have a record signed to Motown Records, according to his website.
His reception on the international stage had been mixed, however. European audiences had argued that he sang world music and local audiences felt his music had changed to an extent that it flew over them.
This did not seem to bother him. “We have found that locally the audience does not grow with you. People expect me to still be doing Ayobayo, yet that was 1987 and this is 2001,” he said in the M&G interview.
Dube always had to fend off questions of whether he was Rastafarian. “If Rastafarianism is about having dreadlocks, smoking marijuana and believing that Haile Selassie is God, then I am not Rastafarian. But if it is about political, social and personal consciousness, then, yes, I am,” he said.
Although his idol was Peter Tosh, he acknowledged the unshakeable influence of the king of reggae, Bob Marley, whom he described as “the reason we know reggae”.