S.African reggae star's murder puts focus on crime

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JOHANNESBURG, Oct 19 (Reuters) Gunmen shot and killed South African reggae star Lucky Dube in front of his children in one of the country's highest-profile murders, uniting political rivals to call for action against violent crime.

Dube, 43, was killed in an apparent carjacking attempt last Thursday evening and police were searching for three suspects, police spokesman Eugene Opperman said.

''They allegedly tried to take his vehicle, but then shots were fired and he was fatally wounded,'' Opperman said.

The murder of South Africa's biggest-selling reggae singer cast a shadow over the national mood a day before the country's rugby union team face England in the final of the World Cup.

Some callers to radio stations said the South African team, known as the Springboks, should play wearing black armbands.

South African President Thabo Mbeki said his countrymen should fight crime together.

''Even as we prepare to celebrate the victory of the Springboks we must also grieve the death of an outstanding South African and indeed make a commitment that 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,'' he said.

Opposition political parties and the youth wing of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) condemned the killing.

''Urgent and extraordinary measures need to be taken to stop violent crimes once and for all,'' the ANC Youth League said in a statement.

CRIME ''OUT OF CONTROL'' The opposition Democratic Alliance said the murder showed crime was out of control in South Africa.

''The circumstances surrounding his murder again illustrate that violent crime in South Africa is out of control, and that the government's remedies to address this scourge have failed,'' DA parliamentary leader Sandra Botha said.

South Africa has one of the world's worst murder rates. The murder rate jumped 2.4 per cent between April 1, 2006, and March 31, 2007, with 19,202 murders in the period. The number of rapes, carjackings and assaults are also high.

Opperman said the singer was attacked shortly after 1800 GMT in Johannesburg's Rossettenville suburb. Police earlier said he was dropping his son off when the attack took place.

Dube recorded more than 20 albums in his career and won over 20 awards locally and internationally. His first album, released in 1984 with the title ''Rastas Never Die'', was banned by the country's apartheid government.

Dube's record company said the murder was senseless.

''Lucky wasn't just big in South Africa, he was big in Africa and the rest of the world where he had a huge fan base. He was a fantastic ambassador for South African music, because he was always out there promoting South African music and reggae music around the world,'' said Gallo Music Chief Executive Officer Ivor Haarburger.

During his career he performed across the world and shared the stage with musicians such as Sinead O'Connor, Peter Gabriel and Sting.

Paul Boateng, Britain's ambassador to South Africa, told Talk Radio 702 he was shocked by Dube's death. ''Both my wife and I are big fans ... It is a great loss to music internationally''.

REUTERS ARB RK1626

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