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Zimbabwe Govt Declares National Hero Status For Late Catholic Priest Father Ribeiro


(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The  Zimbabwe government has declared national hero status to Roman Catholic Church priest Father Emmanuel Francis Ribeiro who died last week, and the nation is to mourn him for three days.

Born in 1935 in Chivhu, Fr Ribeiro died at the age of 86.

Burial arrangements will be announced in due course.

The theologian, music composer, educationist, writer, media activist and nationalist is famed for having been the patron of prisons in the country during the time when President Mnangagwa was jailed for 10 years for torching a Rhodesian train. 

Zimbabwe’s Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri carried the news on national hero status to Ribeiro family where she described him as “a gallant son of the soil, a freedom fighter, great researcher and theologian par excellence.”

“Fr Ribeiro fought for the independence of this country despite being a cleric and he even continued to serve after independence. He had unpleasant experiences during the war as he prayed for prisoners before hanging.

“He was a friend to the prisoners and had a great influence. He also assisted former President Mugabe and national hero Edgar Tekere to cross to Mozambique. He represented President Mnangagwa when he was arrested during the war,” said the minister.

The priest was influential in advocating for President Mnangagwa, then aged 19 in the 1970s, to escape the guillotine as he was spared capital punishment as he two accomplices were hanged and buried at the prison.

The President Mourned

“Almost 50 years ago, Father Ribeiro saved my life. When I was sentenced to death in prison, this great man fought for me to live. A gifted composer, a talented writer and a true Zimbabwean hero. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” he said.

Fr Ribeiro headed a committee that wrote the current Zimbabwe national anthem and also contributed to designing of the country’s national flag.

He composed over 17 Roman Catholic Church songs. He wrote three vernacular shona novels, one of them used as a set book in secondary school and two won prizes in competitions arranged by the Rhodesia Literature Bureau.

Together with the late Sister Aquina, Moven Mahachi and Rekai Tangwena, Fr Ribeiro played a critical role which ensured Mugabe and Edgar Tekere absconded to Mozambique to lead the struggle after the assassination of Herbert Chitepo.

Fr Ribeiro attended Kutama Mission, Gokomere, and Gweru Teachers’ College and studied Theology at Chishawasha Mission before enrolling for a Master’s Degree at Bloomington College of Music in the US.

He was vice president Constantino Chiwenga’s spiritual mentor for three years while they were studying at Indiana University, Bloomington campus in the United States.

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