Thursday, February 1, 2018


BLESSED BENEDICT DASWA who feast is today,  born Tshimangadzo Samuel Daswa, was a South African school teacher and principal.   He was given the name of “Samuel” by his parents when he started to attend school and assumed the name “Benedict” upon his conversion.   A local mob murdered him when he refused to fund their anti-Catholic witchcraft superstitions.   He had been viewed as a martyr after his death and his martyrdom was confirmed in 2015, paving the way for his beatification.  He was beatified in Limpopo on 13 September 2015. Cardinal Angelo Amato, on behalf of Pope Francis, presided over the beatification Mass.

Bl. Benedict was a member of the Lemba tribe. He the first child born to Tshililo Petrus Daswa (Bakali) and Thidziambi Ida Daswa (Gundula). This tribe followed Jewish rituals and laws. Daswa had three younger brothers and one sister. He worked as a herd boy before he attended school.  After his father’s accidental death, it fell to him to provide for his siblings and he did this by paying for their education while working.

He was exposed to Roman Catholicism through a friend he met in Johannesburg while living there with an uncle. After two years of instruction, he was baptized on 21 April 1963 by Father Augustine O’Brien. He took the name of “Benedict” due to the fact that he was inspired by St Benedict of Nursia, also selecting as his life motto “Ora et labora” (pray and work). He was confirmed by Abbot Bishop F. Clemens van Hoek, O.S.B. three months later on 21 July 1963.

He became an active member of the church in South Africa.   The future blessed went to Venda Teacher Training College to do a primary teacher’s certificate and later obtained his matriculation through correspondence in 1973.  He served as a teacher and catechist, working with adolescents and assisting families that endured economic hardship.  He was a highly respected individual in his local community and became known for his honesty, truthfulness and integrity, even known to fetch students who decided to skip schools. He later helped to build the first church in his area and  became the principal of the school.

In 1974 he married Shadi Eveline Monyai (d. 2008) and they had a total of eight children. He would help his wife with household chores, unheard of at that time in his area, and he valued his family to the point of hosting Daswa Family Days each 16 December where gifts would be exchanged and a meal held.   For his family, he personally built his brick house.

In November 1989, heavy rains and lightning strikes plagued the area. When his village suffered strong storms again in January 1990, the elders decided that the lightning occurred due to magic and thus demanded a tax from all the residents to pay for a sangoma (healing) to “sniff out” the witch who caused the storms.   Refusing to believe this, Bl. Benedict said they were just a natural phenomenon and declined to pay the tax.

On 2 February 1990, Bl. Benedict drove his sister-in-law and her sick child to a doctor and en route, picked up a man who asked for his help to take a bag of meal to his home in a town next to Mbahe.   At around 7:30 pm, he returned to Mbahe where he left his sister-in-law and child near their home.  He told his daughter that he would soon return after taking the passenger to the next village.

Returning home and finding his path blocked by fallen trees, he attempted to clear the road.  He was ambushed by a mob of young men.  Bleeding as a result of stoning, he left his damaged car and ran for assistance at a woman’s hut.  However, the woman revealed where he was when the mob threatened to kill her if she did not comply.  As a result of this, he was beaten and clubbed over the head.  Boiling water was poured over him in his ears and nostrils to ensure that he was dead.  His final words were, “God, into Your hands receive my spirit”.  

The funeral took place on Saturday, 10 February 1990.   Celebrants wore red vestments to indicate their belief that Bl. Benedict died at the hands of his attackers in hatred of his faith.

Pope Francis approved a decree that recognized his martyrdom on  January 22, 2015 which allowed for his beatification.  Approximately 35,000 people attended the beatification.

Bl. Benedict is the first South African to be recognized as a martyr of  Christ.

No comments:

Post a Comment