The family of Lindani Myeni was reunited with his remains which were repatriated from the US in preparation for his funeral this week.
It was a sombre moment at OR Tambo International Airport when Myeni's family received his coffin. His wife, Lindsay, dressed in black, sat nearby his white coffin weeping as family members clutched and comforted the young children and each other.
Myeni’s family was joined by a delegation sent by KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala. They were social development MEC Nonhlanhla Khoza; arts, culture, sports and recreation MEC Hlengiwe Mavimbela; public works and human settlement MEC Ntuthuko Sibiya and KZN director-general Nonhlanhla Mkhize.
A prayer was held at the airport before the family began their drive back to their home town of Esikhawini.
Myeni was shot and killed by police in Hawaii last month.
The 29-year-old and three police officers had an altercation which resulted in Myeni being shot four times.
Pastor Beatrice Nhleko spoke on behalf of the Myeni family: “He is our son, our hero. Young as he is, we are proud that he has triggered the whole world to be aware of what is happening in the US and to fight for justice.
“Now the world knows who he is, it is written in their books and they will tell their children there was a young man from South Africa who changed history.”
Khoza, speaking on behalf of the KZN government at the prayer, said it was with great sadness that they welcomed home the body of a son of the soil who was killed by those meant to protect him.
“The hostility displayed by the trigger-happy Honolulu police in killing Lindani revived wounds of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, Jim Crow, and public lynchings of black people in America. As well as our country’s horrific past where black people suffered untold brutality and human rights abuses by the apartheid security forces. It is not a crime to be black but they killed him like an animal. As a country, we cannot allow this and we must stand united in our fight for justice,” she said.
Khoza urged US President Joe Biden to ensure those implicated were swiftly brought to book.
“We demand swift justice, we are a nation united in anger and mourning.”
Zikalala, who was not present at OR Tambo as he was engaged with Cosatu in Pietermaritzburg, bemoaned the lack of co-operation by the Honolulu Police Department.
He said multiple attempts to gain assistance were ignored and to add salt to the wound, Consul-General Babalwa Sunduza said police had not co-operated with the request to return Myeni’s wedding ring among other personal belongings.
“Their attitude shows a lack of respect for Black lives. We cannot remain silent about this injustice. Being Black is not a scourge but when you consider the conduct of the police in Honolulu, you realise they’re not taking this incident seriously. They are behaving as if nothing happened. It’s as if his life didn’t matter.”
Much of the incident remained unknown even after body camera footage of the responding police officers were released. The 911 call was released by police this weekend but offers little to answer questions about the fatal encounter.
In the emergency call, a woman reports that a man entered the home and initially sounded calm but as the call progresses, gets increasingly more distraught and frantic as shots are fired.
Myeni’s widow has filed a wrongful death lawsuit and accused police of attacking her husband without identifying themselves as law enforcement who was defending himself when blinded by a police Maglite.
She revealed the location of the shooting was not a home, but an allegedly illegal holiday rental property.