By Léopold Munhende / Agencies
HÉRO ROMANQUE Roman Catholic priest, Father Emmanuel Ribeiro has passed away.
Government spokesman Nick Mangwana confirmed the death by declaring Father Ribeiro on Thursday morning at St. Anne’s Hospital in Harare.
“It is sad to learn that Father Emmanuel Ribeiro passed away in the early hours of this morning. Father Ribeiro was deputy chaplain general of prisons when President Emmerson Mnangagwa was in prison, ”Mangwana said.
Born in 1935, Father Ribeiro is behind the flight of President Robert Mugabe and liberation hero Edgar Tekere in Mozambique.
It also hosted Mugabe and another liberation hero, Enos Nkala, after their release from prison by the government of Ian Smith.
Father Ribeiro headed the committee that wrote Zimbabwe’s national anthem and was part of the designer of its flag.
History of Father Emmanuel Ribeiro
Father Emmanuel Francis Ribeiro was a priest, composer and novelist for the Roman Catholic Church in Zimbabwe. Ribeiro composed over 17 songs for the Roman Catholic Church. He was the head of the committee that wrote the Zimbabwe national anthem and was part of the committee that designed the Zimbabwe national flag.
He was born in 1935 in Chivhu.
Ribiero attended Kutama Mission, Gokomere and Gweru Teachers’ College. He studied theology at Chishawasha before enrolling for a master’s degree at Bloomington College of Music in the United States.
He was a correspondent for the BBC.
Ribeiro, who was trained in the Chishawasha mission from 1952 and was ordained a priest on December 13, 1964. He celebrated his 50 years as a Catholic priest on December 13, 2014 at St Peter’s Kubatana in Highfield, Harare.
After his ordination in 1964, Father Ribeiro worked in Mhondoro, Highfield in Harare, and from 1968 to 1983 he was prison chaplain at Harare Central Prison, then half of the country before becoming national chaplain. It was during this period that Fr. Ribeiro met the majority of Zimbabwe’s nationalists.
He was deputy chaplain general of prisons while Emmerson Mnangagwa and Mathew Malowa were in prison for bombing the Rhodesian locomotive at Fort Victoria station (now Masvingo). Mnangagwa and other members of the Crocodile Gang were arrested and sentenced to death. Ribeiro facilitated Mnangagwa’s removal from death row. Victor Mlambo and James Dhlamini, also members of the Crocodile Gang, were hanged.
Father Ribeiro has a musical career of over 60 years and has composed over 17 songs of the Roman Catholic Church, including Mambo Mwari Wamasimba and Tauya Nozvipo Zvo Mupiro. He introduced vernacular chants and African musical instruments to the Catholic Church in the 1960s, in the wake of Vatican Council II, which opened up Catholic rituals to indigenous languages. He was at the forefront of the global movement to make the mass locally relevant and understandable to the ordinary citizen. At the time, all Catholic masses were celebrated in Latin.
He also orchestrated the great escape of Robert Mugabe and Edgar Tekere in Mozambique. He sheltered Mugabe and Enos Nkala after they had just been freed by Smith as outlaw political prisoners after 12 years, in his rectory at Rhodesville Roman Catholic Church in 1975 and organized their escape . He dropped Nkala at the Mutanga Night Club where he was assisted by director Paul Tangi Mhova Mkondo.
In 2019, he was part of a group of religious leaders under the banner of the National Elders Forum (NEF) who called for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by October 25, which was declared by SADC as a day of protest against sanctions. .
Career as a writer
He was elected the first president of the Shona and Ndebele Writers Association in 1967. Father Ribeiro wrote Shona epilogues for the African service of the Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation (RBC) for two years. He is the author of three shona novels Muchadura, Tonderai and Ndakaitei. Ribeiro’s first two Shona novels, Muchadura and Tonderai, won prizes in competitions organized by the Rhodesian Bureau of Literature. Father Ribeiro’s first novel, Muchadura, earned him £ 35. More than 3,000 copies have been sold. Muchadura was used as a set of books.
The first Roman Catholic Church song he composed, “Gamuchirai Mambo Mupiro Uyu” in 1961, continues to be sung today. His other popular compositions include ‘Alleluia Munyika Dzose’, ‘Tauya Nezvipo Zvemupiro’, Mambo Mwari Wamasimba ‘, Hwayana yaMwari, Mwari Ngaarumbidzwe among others.