Police in South Africa have launched a manhunt for the killers of the nation's football team captain, who was shot dead in an apparent robbery at his girlfriend's home, plunging the country into shock and grief.

Twenty-seven-year-old Senzo Meyiwa was shot in the upper body on Sunday, and the two gunmen, along with an accomplice who had waited outside his girlfriend Kelly Khumalo's home in Vosloorus township near Johannesburg, fled on foot, according to police.

"Words cannot express the nation's shock at this loss," President Jacob Zuma said in a statement, leading the national grief for Meyiwa.

Zuma urged law enforcement authorities to "leave no stone unturned" in finding the killers, and police offered a reward of nearly $23,000 for information leading to their arrest and conviction.

Words cannot express the nation's shock at this loss.

Jacob Zuma, South African president

General Riah Phiyega, the national police commissioner, said Meyiwa's killing was a blow to the "brand" and "image" of South Africa, adding it was important to show the world that authorities were moving aggressively to solve the case.

"They will be keen to know what we are doing as police," Phiyega said at a news conference.

The goalkeeper was recently made captain of the South African national team, known by its nickname of Bafana Bafana, and led it in four African Cup of Nations qualifiers this year.

South Africa hosted the football World Cup in 2010 with relatively little incident, dispelling visitors' fears amid a decade-long decline in violent crime.

However, police said last month that there were 17,000 killings in the year ending in March, a five percent increase over the previous year in a country of 53 million.

The shooting comes amid an already stormy period among South African sport personalities.

Officials had expressed sadness at the saga of Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee Olympic runner who fatally shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year.

Following a tumultuous and emotional trial, Pistorius began serving a five-year prison sentence October 21 after being convicted of culpable homicide, or manslaughter; prosecutors who had sought a murder conviction plan to appeal.

And on Friday, former 800-metre world champion and Olympic silver medalist Mbulaeni Mulaudzi died in a car crash.

Also, on October 19, Jackson Mthembu, a member of parliament and a former spokesman for the African National Congress, was shot during a robbery at an ATM in the country's east, the party said. He drove himself to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Last year, the home of Desmond Tutu, the retired Anglican archbishop and Nobel peace laureate, was burgled while he and his wife slept. They were not harmed.

Source: Associated Press