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02.02.2009 International

SA reggae icon murder case begins


Three men accused of murdering South African reggae singer Lucky Dube have gone on trial in Johannesburg.

Julius Xowa, Thabiso Maroping and Sfiso Mhlanga are also facing charges of unlawful possession of firearms and attempted hijacking.

The trio have not been asked to plead. The shooting of the musician outside his brother's house in Johannesburg in October 2007 shocked the country.

Lucky Dube's family and friends were in court for the opening of the trial.

The accused - all in their early 30s - were denied bail when they appeared in court in November last year.

It emerged at the time that one of the suspects had been out on bail on a separate charge when he allegedly took part in the murder of the reggae star.

This angered opposition parties and members of the public who questioned the country's judicial system.

But police were highly praised for making quick arrests.

Shocked the world
Four suspects were initially taken into custody, but one was later released under the instruction of the directorate of public prosecutions.

Lucky Dube was shot dead after dropping off his son and daughter in Rosettenville, a southern suburb of downtown Johannesburg.

The killing shocked the world, with some calling on the government to intensify its fight against crime.

The BBC's Mpho Lakaje in Johannesburg says South Africa's international image has been tarnished by its alarming crime levels.

Nearly 19,000 people were murdered last year, according to official statistics.

Millions of visitors are expected for next year's football world cup.

Lucky Dube began his career by singing mbaqanga (traditional Zulu) music and recorded his first album with the Super Soul band in 1982.

He later moved into reggae, producing Rastas Never Die, which was banned by the apartheid government.

His albums Slave, Prisoner and Together As One saw him gain global recognition.

The trial is expected to last about a month.