Source: WATCH: President honours church for liberation struggle role | Sunday News (local news)
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday News Reporter
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa arrived in Bulawayo yesterday en route to St Joseph in Kezi, Matabeleland South province where he is expected to acknowledge the Catholic parish for its role in the liberation of the country.
On his arrival at Joshua Mqabuko International Airport, President Mnangagwa said he accepted the invitation to the centenary celebrations of the parish as part of his acknowledgement of the role that the church played during the liberation struggle of the country.
He was accompanied by Minister of Defence and War Veterans Affairs, Cde Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, and officials from his office. He was welcomed in Bulawayo by Vice-President Dr Constantino Chiwenga, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Professor Mthuli Ncube, Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube, Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Raj Modi, Zanu-PF Bulawayo chairman Cde Jabulani Sibanda, service chiefs among other senior Government officials and church leaders.
Addressing throngs of Zanu-PF supporters who gathered at the airport to welcome him, President Mnangagwa said the parish in St Joseph had been a vital cog during the liberation war effort.
“Tomorrow I am going to St Joseph’s in Kezi. I am a Methodist and General Chiwenga is Catholic. The Catholic Church in St Joseph’s supported us a lot during the war, they stood by us as we were fighting the colonial power led by Ian Smith.
So, I am going there to pay my respects as part of Zimbabwe, a free Zimbabwe. We want to thank the Catholic Church for supporting our revolution,” he said.
Meanwhile, an electric atmosphere of expectation and excitement has gripped people in St Joseph’s in Kezi ahead of the President’s visit. The parish was made famous by the late nationalist and Vice-President, Dr Joshua Nkomo, who hailed from the area.
The parish, which was built in 1923, is also home to a primary school, built in 1934 and a clinic which was constructed in 1939. The church was initially located at what would later become Bidi Primary School.
Speaking to Sunday News, St Joseph’s Mission Parish Priest, Father Innocent Ndlovu, said there had been excitement in the area over the President’s impending visit, with villagers pleased by the prospect of catching a glimpse of the country’s Head of State and Government.
“The mood here has been of jubilation and we are happy that so many dignitaries are joining us, including the Head of State. We want to give everyone who will come a warm welcome and we expect His Grace, the Archbishop of Bulawayo, Alex Thomas to preside over this Thanksgiving ceremony.
We expect the people to come in their numbers and contribute to the well-being of the church because as you know the church survives through the kindness of people,” he said.
Father Ndlovu said St Joseph’s Mission was an integral part of the everyday life of the people of Semokwe, touching various aspects of their lives. The President’s visit, he said, was a timely seal of approval for the humanitarian work the church was doing in the community.
“We are celebrating 100 years of St Joseph’s service to the people of God, to the people of Semokwe, to the people of Matabeleland South and obviously God. The service that we render to God to a certain extent is through our neighbours and you cannot love God without loving your neighbour. For that reason, the church has always been holistic in approach and it’s not reliant on prayer alone.
We believe in the old motto, Ora et labora, which means pray and work. You pray at some time but doing humanitarian work. We pray but develop human capacity and in that sense the church established the primary school that takes care of the educational side of the community. We also have the hospital that takes care of the well-being of the community of St Joseph’s and has been doing so since 1940.
“The institution means a lot to the community. It is a part of the community and hence it’s one of the oldest surviving communities in Semokwe, St Joseph’s. For that reason, we are happy that His Excellency will grace the occasion on Sunday (today) because his presence means a lot to the community.
We are happy that he has expressed his desire to be a part of us and celebrate one hundred years of St Joseph’s Mission,” he said.
Father Ndlovu said President Mnangagwa’s visit on the parish’s 100-year anniversary was pregnant with meaning, as St Joseph’s had played a part in the war, which the President others waged to liberate the country from the shackles of colonial oppression.
“As you know, most of our mission facilities helped a lot during the liberation struggle. We have clinics and hospitals and we offered medicine to freedom fighters during the war and this is particularly true of St Joseph’s Clinic. So great was the aid we provided that the District Administrator at that time closed the mission in 1978 due to the fact that guerillas were being offered medicine at the clinic,” he said.
Father Ndlovu said given that St Joseph’s was the late VP Dr Joshua Nkomo’s home parish, he had an unparalleled influence in the area, which had elevated its status among leaders in the country.
“St Joseph’s Mission is the area of Father Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo and he was someone who summoned many people to join the struggle and many people from his home area heeded the call to the extent that even the Parish Priest at St Joseph’s Mission, Father Albert Ngwenya left the mission and joined the war effort.
He went to Zambia, then Angola and Russia to train as a freedom fighter. So many people from the area left to fight in the war because of the influence of Dr Joshua Nkomo,” he said.