BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA: 24 May 2005, Solly Tyibilika during the South African Rugby PhotoCall at the Springbok Training Camp in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Photo Credit©Duif du Toit\Touchline Photo

Former Springbok Solly Tyibilika was on his phone with his back to the door when two gunmen fired 10 rounds into the Nyanga tavern where he had been socialising, wounding two men and killing the rugby player.

When it was over people got up from the floor to find the 32-year old lying dead in a pool of blood, shocked witnesses told the Cape Argus about the former Bok forward’s murder on Sunday.

At the time of his death Tyibilika was out on bail for the illegal possession of a firearm. He and co-accused Sandile Maqungu, 27, and Simon Dan Shumane, 25, were arrested in Crossroads on October 17 after police found a 9mm pistol in their possession.

Both his co-accused have also been killed.

Police spokesman Warrant Officer November Philander said they were still treating the three deaths as separate cases. Police said Tyibilika had multiple bullet wounds.

A man who witnessed the shooting but wants to remain anonymous, said: “

We were talking about soccer, (Orlando) Pirates and Benni McCarthy. I think there were 10 of us and Solly was on his phone. Next thing we know, there is shooting and people are falling all over themselves, diving under tables and lying on the floor. I didn’t see the guys who shot him as I was under a table.

“When the shooting ended I looked around and saw him lying on his stomach, dead.”

The man said more than 10 shots had been fired.

“This is horrible, it is not something from here. I think it was deliberate; they came for him. They said to some people to move out of the way. It is rotten what they did,” he said.

Asked whether Tyibilika, a father of two, was a regular at the tavern, the man said: “It was his first time coming here. He was nice, very friendly.”

He said the gunmen “didn’t take anything from anyone, they shot and ran out”.

Tavern owner Ntozi Fiyo said Tyibilika’s murder was the first on her property.

“We have never had a body in this house. I’ve been selling alcohol for 18 years and when people get drunk, they are taken home.

“This was the first time this boy came here and this happens. Clearly he was followed.”

A victim of the crossfire who did not want to be named for fear of reprisal said he was sitting in the tavern and chatting about soccer while a game was on TV.

“I heard gunshots and we all went down, then I got shot in the leg.”

When the Cape Argus visited Tybilika’s home, a few blocks from the tavern, Sindisiwe Mavi, who said she was the former Springbok’s girlfriend, and a family friend, Zanele Tsotsobe, were there with neighbours and friends.

Mavi said Tyibilika had been a good man. “On Friday we were sitting with him and later on Saturday he said he was going to get some drinks, and he’d be back. He did not come back... I was told later what had happened to him.”

Tyibilika is due to be buried in Port Elizabeth next Friday, said Tsotsobe.

On Monday Supersport reported that Hamiltons Sea Point RFC, the club to which Tyibilika belonged, would help pay for his funeral costs. Club manager Michael Stakemire had sent out an e-mail to club members appealing for donations.

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