I never met Senzo Meyiwa or dealt with him, but by all accounts he was a wonderful human being and obviously a very talented footballer. A person being cut down before their prime, especially in such violent, totally senseless circumstances, is always a great tragedy.
But this crime had a whole extra layer of circumstances surrounding it, in the form of Meyiwa, married with a child, being murdered at his girlfriend’s house, with whom he has another child.
While I unreservedly mourn the death of Senzo, a thought occurred to me while I considered the tawdry situation – imagine if this had happened to one of our other national captains. Imagine if Jean de Villiers or Hashim Amla, both married, were actively pursuing an adulterous relationship and had children outside of marriage. What would the reaction be?
Top-class sport is all about discipline and many coaches will tell you that a player who is ill-disciplined off the field will struggle to be disciplined on it.
However much of a hero Meyiwa was on the football field, it is yet another moral failure of our country to not recognise that this was a person who broke his marriage vows, humiliated his wife and tore apart his family.
Whether or not Senzo planned to marry Kelly Khumalo, either his son by her or his daughter with wife Mandisa Mkhize were going to grow up without the regular influence of a father in their lives. There are numerous studies that point to the negative influence an absentee father has on children’s education, future relationships and even their ability to function properly in society. I would wager that the thugs that conspired to take Meyiwa’s life are, ironically, from fatherless families themselves.
And before people point to culture and say it was acceptable for Meyiwa to have his bit on the side, may I point out that many black commentators I have read are terribly disappointed by his behaviour.
If we as humans use “culture” as an excuse to propagate destructive behaviour then we are never going to progress. Such evils as slavery and Apartheid were considered culturally acceptable as well, and the oppression of women is still practised in many cultures around the world.
There seems to be a double standard at play here. If it had been revealed during Oscar Pistorius’s court case that he had been cheating on girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, the public would probably have clamoured for him to get capital punishment!
Not all top-class sportsmen are saints and I’m sure if we had all the information about our national heroes we would be shocked, but perhaps Bafana Bafana can take a leaf out of cricket’s book where the ProteaFire campaign is as much about how Amla’s world number one team performs on the field as about how they behave off it.