Saturday, October 20, 2007

Reggae star's death rocks South Africa

Shot dead
Jon Hrusa / EPA
SLAIN: Reggae legend Lucky Dube was killed by carjackers Thursday night as he dropped off his teenage son and daughter at home in South Africa.

Reggae star's death rocks South Africa

Jon Hrusa / EPA
SLAIN: Reggae legend Lucky Dube was killed by carjackers Thursday night as he dropped off his teenage son and daughter at home in South Africa.
The fatal shooting of Lucky Dube spurs renewed calls for action against violent crime.
By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 20, 2007
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — A wave of anger and shock has followed the killing Thursday of reggae legend Lucky Dube by carjackers, with politicians from across the spectrum calling for a renewed effort to reduce one of the world's highest homicide rates.

Killings for a cellphone, a few dollars or old household goods barely rate headlines, but the shooting of Dube, 43, one of Africa's most renowned musicians, in front of his two teenagers horrified South Africans, including President Thabo Mbeki.

Dube recorded more than 20 albums over the last 25 years, and toured extensively around the world. Much of his work had strong political or social messages, including anti-apartheid themes. His last album, "Respect," released in 2005, included songs with titles such as "Political Games," "Changing World," and "Celebrate Life."

Crime has been a political hot potato since the end of apartheid. But despite its boasts of success, the governing African National Congress remains under enormous pressure to stem the violence, with the country slated to be the host of the 2010 soccer World Cup.

South Africa has nearly 20,000 homicides a year.

Some politicians called Friday for the reinstatement of the death penalty, and the opposition Democratic Alliance said Dube's slaying was more evidence that crime continued to soar.

"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 Democratic Alliance spokeswoman Desiree van der Walt.

Mbeki, often criticized by his opponents as being in denial about the extent of crime in the country, expressed dismay over the killing before flying to Paris to see South Africa compete against England in the Rugby World Cup final.

"It's indeed very, very sad that this happens to an outstanding South African, an outstanding musician, world renowned," he said. "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."

To explain the violent crime rate, analysts often point to the fact that South Africa is one of the world's most unequal societies, with a vast underclass of poorly educated, unemployed people and a small wealthy elite.

Police set up a task force Friday to track down the three gunmen who confronted Dube Thursday night as he dropped off his son and daughter at home. Police said he tried to escape and was able to drive a short distance after he was shot, but hit a tree and died at the scene.

"What makes his death more painful is that it happened at a time when government has renewed its pledge to forge a partnership with people, communities and their institutions to fight crime," said Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan.

The African National Congress called the killing "barbaric and senseless."

"Brutal crimes such as these once more remind us . . . of the need to join hands with our law enforcement agencies and forge a bold front against crime," party spokesman Smuts Ngonyama said.

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