Advertisement

South Africa’s Blessed Daswa “a model for us to follow, imitate”: Bishop on Feast Day

Poster announcing the Feast Day of Blessed Benedict Daswa

A Bishop in South Africa has, in a reflection on the Feast Day of Blessed Benedict Daswa, the country’s first potential saint, termed him a model that the people of God can “follow and imitate.”

“The life of Blessed Benedict Daswa has been given to us as a model for us to follow and imitate,” Bishop Victor Phalana of South Africa’s Klerksdorp Diocese has said in a reflection shared with ACI Africa Monday, February 1, the Feast Day of the Blessed.

Bishop Phalana adds in reference to Blessed Daswa, “His life has clearly shown us that it is by and through our everyday life that we can please God and also become saints.” 

Blessed Benedict Daswa was a teacher from Limpopo, Northern South Africa who was killed by fellow villagers for his lack of belief in witchcraft, which he considered to be against the teachings of Jesus Christ. He was aged 43.

In his February 1 reflection, Bishop Phalana outlines various virtues that Christians can emulate from Blessed Daswa’s life, among them being dedicated and faithful to God. 

Advertisement

“Blessed Benedict Daswa lived his life fully dedicated to God and others. He really fulfilled what his faith called him to. It's our call also to accept our faith and live according to our faith,” the Bishop who heads the Justice and Peace Commission of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) says.

He adds, “We are called to share, profess, proclaim and defend our faith.” 

Oftentimes in difficult circumstances, some Christians are shy and afraid to profess their faith, instead opting to be “bystanders standing in their shells and refusing to speak up” in the face of injustices, the South African Bishop remarks.

“Blessed Daswa was courageous enough to the point of giving up his life for his faith,” he says and urges the faithful “with strong faith to face the challenges of life trusting in God” and live according to their Christian call. 

Bishop Phalana also invites Christians to emulate the commitment that Blessed Daswa had to his baptismal vows, which he took “very devotedly and seriously” as he “knew his journey of faith had started.”  

More in Africa

“As a true family man, he respected every member of the family,” the 59-year-old Bishop says referencing Blessed Daswa and implores, “May our families be united in love, be faithful and always work together. May we support each other to reach the full potential and please God.”

Just as the South African Blessed was “committed to the community when he assisted the youths, those in need and the sick,” the Bishop of Klerksdorp notes, “we are also called and expected to be relevant in our communities.” 

In the 11-minute reflection, Bishop Phalana also invites the people of God in his country to be as committed to the Church as Blessed Daswa was in his service as a voluntary catechist when he “dedicated his time to teach and share his faith with fellow church members.” 

“In the same way, the Church needs you. With the gifts you have, participate in the building of the kingdom of God,” the Bishop adds. 

He continues, “As Benedict was a true apostle of life, let us respect life because it's precious. It's not our duty to take the lives of those we see as sinners and offenders. Vengeance is for God, let us be good forgivers.” 

Advertisement

“Blessed Benedict is really our model. May we imitate him in our life. May he intercede for us and fulfill the good desires of our hearts,” Bishop Phalana goes on to implore in his February 1 reflection shared with ACI Africa.

Born on 16 June 1946 as Tshimangadzo Samuel Daswa to the Jewish Lemba tribe in rural Limpopo, the Northernmost province of South Africa, he adopted the name Benedict upon converting from Judaism. 

An account of his life indicates that a November 1989 storm accompanied by lightning strikes hit Daswa’s village, with a similar catastrophe being experienced three months later.  

The village elders believed that the lightning catastrophe was occasioned by magic, and thus demanded a financial contribution from each village to pay “sangoma (traditional healer)” who would “sniff out” the witch. 

Daswa, a staunch Catholic and non-believer in the magic narrative, refused to pay the tax insisting that the lightning was a natural phenomenon. 

While driving back home from a family errand on 2 February 1990 at 7.30 p.m., he found the road blocked by fallen trees. As he removed the trees, a group of young men who had waylaid him in a nearby bush ambushed him and started stoning him. 

A wounded and heavily bleeding Daswa ran to a neighboring woman’s house for refuge, but the woman gave him up after the young men threatened to kill her. Daswa was hit on the head, and hot water poured into his ears and nose. 

As he died, he said, “God, into your hands, receive my spirit." 

During his burial on 10 February 1990, celebrants wore red vestments as an indication that he died due to his attackers’ hatred for his faith. 

A tombstone bought by his mother, Thidziambi Ida Daswa, a convert to Catholicism was unveiled during a special Mass in November 2000.  

In January 2015, Pope Francis approved a decree recognizing his martyrdom, which allowed for his beatification. 

In the decree, the Holy Father described Daswa as, “a layman, father of a family, martyr, diligent catechist, considerate teacher, witness of the Gospel until the shedding of blood.” 

Following the decree, Daswa’s remains were later transferred to Nweli Catholic Church in August 2015 in readiness for his beatification on 13 September 2015. 

An estimated 30,000 people among them his 91-year-old mother and his eight children attended the event held at Limpopo, which was presided over by the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Angelo Cardinal Amato. 

“The Holy Spirit transformed this young South African into an authentic hero of the Gospel. His heart was full of love for God and neighbor,” Cardinal Amato was quoted as saying in an interview, adding, “Benedict Daswa is like the first martyrs of the Church who, during the persecutions of the Roman emperors, defended their faith with prayer, courage and forgiveness of enemies.” 

Mutshiro Michael, one of Blessed Daswa’s sons, told Agence France Presse (AFP) during the beatification, “Proud is an understatement to describe what I feel.” 

Pope Francis declared February 1 Blessed Benedict Daswa’s Feast Day.