Recalling the relocation of the Seminary from Hammanskraal to Cape Town, Bishop Victor Phalana of Klerksdorp Diocese who was a formator at the time said Archbishop Gabuza was “a good organizer.”
“As a formator in the Seminary, he had to handle that whole move, having to shift everything: books and beds from Pretoria to Capetown and he managed,” Bishop Phalana told ACI Africa.
He added in reference to Archbishop Gabuza’s tenure as a Rector, “He loved teamwork. He organized facilitators from outside to help as his staff of five members to come together, work together, to understand each other and to know what our objectives and expectations were.”
The late Archbishop “knew that once we were organized and all of us understood our roles, we would be able to complement and support each other in that difficult task of forming future Priests,” Bishop Phalana said.
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Recalling their collaboration when the late Archbishop was Apostolic Administrator of Pretoria, Bishop Phalana said, “I remember when he was to lead all the Masses in the Holy week and he was very happy to do it. You would knock on his door, he would welcome you and listen. He was a very good listener. He also had good ideas and was not afraid to express himself.”
The South African Bishop went on to recall Archbishop Gabuza as “a shy man (who) has been shy all his life.”
He explained, “You would see that when you shower him with praises and affirmations, he would feel like hiding because he was also a very humble man and also intelligent and self- disciplined.”
“He was really a very good man,” Bishop Phalana told ACI Africa Monday, January 18.
He added in reference to the late Archbishop, “In March, he was going to officially take over as Archbishop of Durban. His death comes at a time when the Archdiocese of Durban was going through a very sensitive transition. The people are not just mourning but they are also anxious about what is going to happen.”
Recalling the Church’s role in the fight against corruption during former President Jacob Zuma’s leadership, the Local Ordinary of Klerksdorp recalled Archbishop Gabuza’s “prophetic voice” at the time.
“He had a prophetic voice. He really stepped in in South Africa during a difficult time when we had a difficult Presidency under Jacob Zuma and the Church had to speak out and to fight corruption,” Bishop Phalana said in reference to Archbishop Gabuza who headed the Justice and Peace Commission of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) at the time.
The prophetic stance made Archbishop Gabusa “unpopular in the political circles but among the poor and the oppressed and those who were suffering as a result of corruption, he was seen as a prophet of our time.”
“We are grateful to God for him and his gifts. He left us too soon; we know he was going to make greater contribution to the Church in South Africa but God has given, God has taken, praise be the name of the Lord,” mourned the Local Ordinary of Klerksdorp.
South Africans have also eulogized the late Archbishop on social media.
In a Facebook post published January 17, the Premier of the Northern Cape, Dr Zamani Saul, termed the demise of Archbishop Gabuza as “a great loss to the people of Durban, the church and the people in Kimberley whom he served, the broader Catholic Church in Southern Africa and the entire religious fraternity.”
Nikita Nundlall posted on Facebook, “On behalf of the altar servers of St Anthony's Parish Greyville, we extend our sincerest condolences on the passing of our dearly beloved Archbishop Abel Gabuza.”
“We have been richly blessed to have had such a kind hearted and deeply spiritual Archbishop as a leader and role model in our faith. We pray that Archbishop Abel Gabuza will continue to watch over us, guide and protect us with all our angels in heaven,” says Nikita.
“We will never forget all that he has taught us, his love for the ministry of altar servers (ADASA) and his legacy will live on forever,” she says and prays, “May the soul of our Archbishop - Abel Gabuza and all our dearly departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace.”
On his part, David Wepener comforted the bereaved saying, “Take comfort in knowing that the Lord has given and taken away also when this earthly Tabernacle is dissolved, we have a house eternal in the heavens not made with hands and it’s Peter speaks of an inheritance incorruptible and fadeth not away prepared in heaven with you all.”
Archbishop Gabuza’s death comes a day after Bishop Moses Hamungole of Zambia’s Monze Diocese in was laid to rest, having succumbed to COVID-19 related complications on January 13.
Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.