South Africans Call for Justice After Fatal Police Shooting of One of Their Own in Hawaii

Lindani Myeni’s widow, right, and an aunt holding the couple’s daughter, greeted his returning coffin at the Johannesburg airport. (Credit…Joao Silva/The New York Times)

A plane from Honolulu landed in Johannesburg earlier this month and offloaded a plastic-wrapped coffin carrying the body of Lindani Myeni, a South African rugby player, aspiring singer and father.

In the airport’s cargo terminal, a youth contingent from the African National Congress party waved a “Black Lives Matter” banner emblazoned with his smiling face. His widow, Lindsay Myeni, a white American from Hawaii, cradled their 6-month-old daughter and kept watch over their 2-year-old son, while Mr. Myeni’s South African family held onto one another in grief.

Mr. Myeni, 29, died in Honolulu after he was shot in a confrontation with the police outside a suburban house he had inexplicably entered, and then left, on the night of April 14. Unarmed, he was wearing a traditional Zulu headband with a tuft of fur at the forehead and, his wife later discovered, he had left his shoes in his car.

In the United States, this police shooting of a Black man they described as a burglary suspect did not make national news. But in South Africa, it has become a cause célèbre, intensifying both criticism of racism in the United States and a feeling of solidarity with African-Americans.

Media outlets in South Africa broadcast Mr. Myeni’s funeral and replayed the harrowing 911 call that captured his death. It begins with a terrified woman reporting an intruder and police officers arriving at the house. It ends with the sound of gunshots.

The outrage over Mr. Myeni’s death comes as South Africa struggles with violence by its own police officers. Last summer, South Africans joined in Black Lives Matter protests, condemning police brutality in their own country and the failure to prosecute wrongful killings.

But the publicized deaths of Africans at the hands of American police officers have touched a special nerve here. Mr. Myeni’s name is invoked alongside those of other victims including Amadou Diallo, a Guinean immigrant killed in New York in 1999; Ousmane Zongo, an immigrant from Burkina Faso killed in New York in 2003; and Alfred Olango, a refugee from Uganda killed in California in 2016.

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SOURCE: The New York Times, Lynsey Chutel and Michelle Broder Van Dyke

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