South African Clergy, Laity Eulogize Late Bishop as "servant leader, second chance Bishop"

Late Bishop Patrick Zithulele Mvemve, Bishop Emeritus of Klerksdorp Diocese in South Africa who died Monday, July 6, 2020
Credit: Bishop Victor Phalana of Klerksdorp Diocese

Clergy and the lay faithful in South Africa have paid glowing tributes to the late Bishop Patrick Zithulele Mvemve who was, until his resignation in April 2013, the Local Ordinary of South Africa’s Klerksdorp Diocese, remembering him as a “servant leader (and) Bishop of the second chance” who “loved sodalities.” 

Bishop Zithulele, the second Bishop of Klerksdorp died Monday, July 6 at the age of 79, the Local Ordinary of Klerksdorp, Bishop Victor Hlolo Phalana announced the same day. 

Bishop Phalana has, in a statement to ACI Africa, eulogized his predecessor as a "good leader (who was) active and creative."

"He spent most of his time and energy putting up structures in his new diocese and renewing institutions. He was a servant leader, who was influential, humble and a community builder. The clergy and laity of Klerksdorp remember him as a leader of faith, who trusted God and who insisted on the love of God and the love of neighbor,” Bishop Victor eulogizes. 

He adds in his Wednesday, July 8 statement to ACI Africa, “Right through Southern Africa, Bishop Zithulele is known as the Bishop of the second chance."

"He believed in giving people a second chance. He knew that a person must never be cast aside simply because of a defect," Bishop Phalana explains and adds in reference to Bishop Zithulele, "He said that to him he could see people who are rough diamonds in need of being polished. His compassion was motivated by the words of Jesus, ‘There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance' (Lk:15: 4-7).” 

A native of Johannesburg Archdiocese, the late Bishop Zithulele was ordained a priest in June 1969 after his formation at the then St. Peter's Seminary in Hammanskraal-Pretoria, South Africa.  

After 17 years of serving as a priest in the then Diocese of Johannesburg, Pope John Paul II appointed him as the Auxiliary Bishop of the same Diocese. In March 1994, he was transferred to Klerksdorp as the Local Ordinary. 

He resigned a month before turning 72 and settled in Soweto within his native Archdiocese of Johannesburg. 

During his episcopate, Bishop Zithulele was "active in the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) where he was elected to chair different departments over the years. He represented the bishops in IMBISA (the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa) ... He attended meetings of SECAM (the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar)," Bishop Phalana says in his message sent to ACI Africa.

He also eulogizes his predecessor as one who loved fellowships, which he called “solidalities.”

"While he supported Sodalities and even founded a sodality for young adults called Saints Agnes and Aloysius, his desire was to move the sodalities from a purely devotional spirituality – exclusively centered on prayer, devotions and liturgical celebrations – towards an apostolic spirituality oriented towards the love and service of others," the successor of the late Bishop Zithulele says.

He went on to reiterate his appreciation for Bishop Zithulele saying, "Coming to this diocese five years ago, I appreciated the ministry of this sodality as it is based on the Works of Mercy and the Works of Charity." 

"Through his initiative, I found a Men’s Forum and the Women’s Forum making contributions to the diocese, especially to the medical support of the Priests. He also introduced an annual ‘Harvest’ as a way of raising funds for the diocese," says Bishop Phalana. 

For Fr. Lawrence Mdudzi Ndlovu, the late Bishop Zithulele was “a good person.”

"His heart was always in the right place. He always met people at the point of humanity first not what or who they were first. For this reason, small or old, rich or poor, anyone from anywhere felt the same in his presence,” the Priest posted on his Facebook page.

Fr. Mdudzi who worked with the Bishop closely when he (Bishop) was in charge of the Youth Office at SACBC also remembered the late Prelate as one who was "always available for everything." 

"We enjoyed his support and we all felt strongly that we had a father and a lover of justice, principle and truth," Fr. Mdudzi recalled. 

In a statement dated Tuesday, July 7, members of IMBISA Secretariat “assured all affected by the death of Bishop Mvemve of prayers of Divine consolation as well as imploring God's mercy for the dearly departed Bishop."

"May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace," members of the IMBISA secretariat added. 

Lerato Palesa posted on Facebook, "Rest in Peace Bishop Patrick Zithulele Mvemve. Ever soft spoken. Ever serene. Ever peaceful. You have finished the race. You have taught the faith. You did well and the Master is more than happy to have you home!" 

The Late Bishop Zithulele is expected to be laid to rest next Tuesday, July 14 in his native Archdiocese of Johannesburg.


ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]