By Leopold Munhende/Agencies
HEROIC Roman Catholic Priest, Father Emmanuel Ribeiro has passed.
Government spokesperson, Nick Mangwana confirmed the cleric’s death Thursday morning at St. Anne’s Hospital in Harare.
“It is sad to learn that Father Emmanuel Ribeiro has passed on in the early hours of this morning. Father Ribeiro was assistant chaplain-general of prisons at the time President Emmerson Mnangagwa was in prison,” said Mangwana.
Born in 1935, Father Ribeiro was the brains behind late former President Robert Mugabe and liberation hero Edgar Tekere’s escape to Mozambique.
He also gave shelter to Mugabe and another liberation hero Enos Nkala after their release from prison by the Ian Smith government.
Father Ribeiro headed the committee that penned Zimbabwe’s national anthem and was part of the one that designed its flag.
Father Emmanuel Ribeiro’s History
Father Emmanuel Francis Ribeiro was a Zimbabwean Roman Catholic Church priest, composer, and novelist. Ribeiro has composed over 17 Roman Catholic Church songs. He was the head of the committee which penned Zimbabwe’s national anthem and was part of the committee which designed Zimbabwe’s 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 Masters’ Degree at Bloomington College of Music in the USA.
He was a correspondent for BBC.
Career As A Priest
Ribeiro, who was trained at Chishawasha Mission from 1952 and was ordained on December 13, 1964. He celebrated 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 a prison chaplain at the Harare Central Prison, then half of the country before becoming the national chaplin. It was during this period that Fr Ribeiro met the majority of Zimbabwe’s nationalists.
He was assistant chaplain-general of prisons at the time when Emmerson Mnangagwa and Mathew Malowa were in prison for bombing the Rhodesian locomotive at Fort Victoria (now Masvingo) railway station. 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 who were also members of the Crocodile Gang were hanged.
Father Ribeiro has a music career spanning over 60 years and has composed over 17 Roman Catholic Church songs including Mambo Mwari Wamasimba and Tauya Nozvipo Zvo Mupiro. He introduced vernacular songs and African musical instruments into 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 person. At the time, all catholic mass services were conducted in Latin.
He also masterminded Robert Mugabe and Edgar Tekere’s great escape to Mozambique. He sheltered Mugabe and Enos Nkala when they had been just released by Smith as outlaw Political prisoners after 12 years, at his rectory at Rhodesville Roman Catholic Church in 1975 and masterminded their escape. He dropped off Nkala at Mutanga Night Club whereby he was attended to by the Manager Paul Tangi Mhova Mkondo.
In 2019, he was part of a group of religious leaders under the banner of the National Elders Forum (NEF) that called for the removal of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe ahead of October 25 which was declared by SADC as a day to protest against the sanctions.
Career As A Writer
He was elected the first chairperson of the Shona and Ndebele Writers’ Association in 1967. Father Ribeiro wrote Shona epilogues for the Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation’s (RBC) African Service 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 arranged by the Rhodesia Literature Bureau.Fr Ribeiro’s first novel Muchadura earned him £35. More than 3 000 copies were sold. Muchadura has been used as a set book.
The first Roman Catholic Church song he composed, ‘Gamuchirai Mambo Mupiro Uyu’ in 1961 and it continues to be sung today. His other popular compositions include ‘Alleluia Munyika Dzose’, ‘Tauya Nezvipo Zvemupiro’, Mambo Mwari Wamasimba’, Hwayana yaMwari, Mwari Ngaarumbidzwe amongst others.