'They have failed to kill Lucky Dube's spirit'

The news of the death of South African reggae star Lucky Dube in a botched hijacking attempt in Johannesburg has drawn strong reaction from around the world.

Dube was shot dead 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.

Ivor Haarburger, CEO of Gallo Records South Africa, told the Mail & Guardian Online: “We are in shock; not only me but the whole company. He has been with us for over 20 years. It’s a real tragedy, not only to those in South Africa, but also Africa and the rest of the world. He was a star in his own right. I toured with him and we became good friends.

“I know his family as well and Lucky was the most organised and decent person and it’s a shock. I’ve been getting calls from everywhere, Colorado, Rwanda, and we were on radio in Kenya. He was a huge star. To shoot someone like this is murder. If they had asked for his car, he would have given it with no questions, but to shoot him is wrong. He was a well-known figure. They would have recognised him; there was no need to shoot him.”

Fellow musician Abigail Kubeka told the M&G Online: “I don’t know what to say. A humble person like Lucky Dube dying in this way is very alarming. The death of musician who preached peace and goodwill through his music has devastated me, and I am certain that the rest of the music industry is just as devastated.”

Kwelagobe, lead vocalist of Kwani Experience, said Dube’s death shows “we are all not safe, whether you are [well-]known or not. As a musician he will be remembered for raising our flag internationally and opening doors for us. May his soul rest in peace.”

Said Jay Sevage, MD of Sony/ATV: “We are already getting calls from all over the world about this tragedy. I am reluctant to make any statements about this, but I hope that this can draw people’s attention about the problem of crime in South Africa. It is indeed a devastating tragedy.”


President Thabo Mbeki made an appeal to South Africans to confront the “scourge” of crime together. “This is indeed very, very sad that this happened to an outstanding South African—an outstanding musician, world renowned,” he said as he was leaving for France to support the Springboks in the World Cup final.

Mbeki conveyed his condolences to the family and to Dube’s fans in South Africa and around the world.

“Even as we prepare to celebrate the victory of the Springboks, we must also grieve the death of an outstanding South African and indeed make a commitment that we shall continue to act together as a people to confront this terrible scourge of crime, which has taken the lives of too many of our people—and does so every day,” he said.

“Perhaps when we bring back the cup that will also be a salute to a fellow artist—as the Springboks are artists—to the life of a really great South African artist, Lucky Dube,” Mbeki said.

The African National Congress (ANC) said it was “deeply shocked and saddened by the brutal murder of music legend Lucky Dube”.

“The ANC condemns in the possible strongest terms, this barbaric and senseless killing by people who have no respect for life. We urge law-enforcement agencies to act promptly in hunting down these nefarious, ruthless criminals who have robbed the Dube family of a father and a son, and a musical icon of all times to South Africa, Africa and the world at large.”

It added: “Through his music, Dube played a pivotal role in sensitising the world about the hardships faced by oppressed people in South Africa at the height of apartheid. His lyrics were a thorn on the side of the apartheid government which had put in place policies precisely designed to undermine the existence of black people and all those who denounced the regime.”

The Democratic Alliance said the country has been robbed of one of its most “talented and patriotic musical ambassadors”.

“The circumstances surrounding his murder again illustrate that violent crime in South Africa is out of control, and that government’s remedies to address this scourge have failed,” said party spokesperson on arts and culture Desiree van der Walt. “Lucky Dube did so much for our country, both as an artist and as a patriot. The best tribute to him and the amazing life he lived would be for government to intensify its fight against crime.”

‘Monumental loss’

In a statement, the Department of Arts and Culture said Dube’s death “is not only a family tragedy but a monumental loss for the nation and for music lovers the world over”.

“We in the Ministry of Arts and Culture are saddened and stunned at the manner of his death. It marks a sad day in the history of our country. Lucky Dube was not just a global ambassador for South African musical talent, music and heritage. He was a world-renowned African composer, singer, band leader, cultural activist, visionary and performer,” it said.

The statement added: “What makes his death more painful is that it happens at a time when government has renewed its pledge to forge a partnership with people, communities and their institutions to fight crime. Crime is a South African problem and every one of us in this country must play our role in fighting it.

“We condemn this senseless and violent killing of an artist who nourished our souls as a nation, articulated the experience and aspirations of the people and used his talent to enrich our identity, musical heritage and culture.

“The killers of Lucky Dube might have ended his life with a couple of bullets. But they have failed to kill his spirit. He will live on through his music in our memory and heritage. We will always listen to his eternal voice through his music.”

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) MP Velaphi Ndlovu said South Africa is once again making headlines “for all the wrong reasons”.

“The minister of safety and security and the president are in denial about crime and are refusing to admit to the size and severity of the problem. Government apathy is what leads to 50 murders daily in this country.”

The IFP called on the government to reveal how it plans to stop the “bloodbath”. “Or is the truth that they just don’t care and they don’t know what to do?”


The Congress of South African Trade Unions said it was “appalled and outraged” at the murder. “We are all devastated at the sudden and senseless killing of a star who brought so much joy to so many and who was the biggest single exporter of South African music internationally,” said spokesperson Patrick Craven.

“He will always remain in our hearts as a unique person with exceptional talent, which will never be equalled, combined with a strong commitment to the values of freedom and humanity which found expression in all his songs.”

The union federation also added its voice to calls for solutions to the country’s violent crime and demanded that police “relentlessly hunt down” his killers. “This atrocity highlights the grim reality of the daily carnage on our streets, the main victims of which are working people and the poor,” it said.

The Pan Africanist Congress 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 National Congress Youth League expressed its “great shock and sadness”, saying: “Lucky Dube rose into prominence during the most difficult period in the history of this country. His music was an inspiration to the struggling masses. Urgent and extraordinary measures need to be taken to stop violent crimes once and for all, particularly in Gauteng.”

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.”

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