Task Force To Hunt Lucky Dube Killers

Johannesburg, South Africa, police have set up a special task force to trace a group of killers suspected of the murder of international reggae star Lucky Dube.

They’re reportedly tracking three "well-known local criminals" believed to be responsible for killing Dube October 19, during what looks to have been a botched carjacking attempt.

Dube was shot dead in front of his two children, a 16-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son, at about 8:20 p.m. – soon after he’d dropped them off at their uncle’s home in the southern Johannesburg suburb of Rosettenville.

Police say the 43-year-old reggae star was driving a grey Chrysler. Three carjackers in a blue Volkswagen fired at least three bullets into his body before speeding away.

Dube’s car was said to have rolled down the road a few yards and stopped when it hit a tree.

"He was declared dead on the scene," said Inspector Lorrain Van Immareck of the Johannesburg police.

Dube’s death has led to a national outpouring of grief as caller after caller, many in tears, rang in to early-morning radio shows to express disgust at the killing.

"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," said Gallo Records’ chief exec Ivor Haarburger.

A few of the callers to the radio stations have also been venting their anger at a government that is widely perceived to be doing nothing to fight a wave of street crime that many commentators say is out of control.

The issue of ever-worsening crime has cut across race lines and led to unprecedented criticism of President Mbeki’s government. Dube’s murder has brought the issue into even sharper focus.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions, traditionally a strong ally of Mbeki’s ruling African National Congress (ANC), has said it’s appalled and outraged at Dube’s death and intends to add its voice to those calling for a clampdown.

The government has spent years claiming crime isn’t as bad as people say, but recent figures – such as 50 murders a day and a rape every 40 seconds – have begun to damage investment and alarm big business.

"This is indeed very, very sad that this happened to an outstanding South African, an outstanding musician," said Mbeki, who is often accused of being in denial over crime, as he boarded a flight to the October 20 South Africa versus England rugby World Cup Final.

Lucky Dube was South Africa’s biggest reggae star. He faced censorship under apartheid as even record companies regarded the genre as an untenable form for local performers.

He stuck with it and eventually his calls for unity won a national following, although his South African success was outstripped by what he went on to achieve in other parts of the world.

The breakthrough came in 1987. Slave, a popular reggae album whose title track warned of the perils of alcoholism, sold 500,000 copies worldwide and made him a household name in his own country.

In 1989, the Prisoner album sold double-platinum (80,000) in South Africa in less than a week, and also resulted in his first live dates in Europe and the U.S.

In 1991, he became the first South African artist to appear at Jamaica’s Reggae Sunsplash.

His 1993 album Victim was a million-seller internationally. Two years later, Dube became the first South African to have an album handled by Motown.