Zimbabweans Eulogize Priest Who Spearheaded National Anthem Composition, Flag Designing

The Late Fr. Emmanuel Ribeiro. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Zimbabweans have paid tribute to Fr. Emmanuel Ribeiro, the Catholic Priest who headed the committee that composed the country’s national anthem and participated in the designing of the flag of the Southern African nation. 

Fr. Ribeiro died Thursday, June 16 at the age of 86, the leadership of the Archdiocese of Harare announced in a Facebook post, saying the death occurred at St. Anne’s Hospital, Harare, “where he has been admitted for a couple of days.”  

The late Priest’s name will go down in history as one of those who played a significant role in the Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence and the liturgy of the Church, various citizens of the country have eulogized.  

“Fr. Ribeiro, we cannot speak of our Zimbabwean history without mentioning you. Fr. Ribeiro, we cannot speak of our liturgy without mentioning you,” says Fr. Reki Mashayamombe in a  Facebook post.

In a separate message shared with ACI Africa, Fr. Mashayamombe describes the late Fr. Ribeiro as a “warm kind-hearted person … with a bright memory.”


In his interactions with the late Priest, Fr. Mashayamombe adds, he learnt “to set standards.” 

“The man had an amazing level of personal standard that is just astronomical. He would say, ‘Hey when you’re doing your things, make it as if there is no tomorrow. When you’re saying Holy Mass say it as if there is no tomorrow. When you’re preaching, preach as if there is no tomorrow; whatever you are doing, give it your very best,” the member of the Clergy of Harare Archdiocese told ACI Africa. 

He recalled one of his interactions with Fr. Ribeiro saying, “I had the privilege of interviewing him five years ago; I had the opportunity to open my heart to him, he opened his to me. We spoke about his family, how he became a Priest, how he loved God and today I cherish these values that he spoke to me.”

“Fr. Ribeiro, the nation has declared you a national hero; I wish the Church would declare you a saint. I know that you are my hero and my saint, my mentor. In everything that I do, I do it because you taught me to be the best and to do the very best,” Fr Mashayamombe said, adding, “My oblation to the Lord is, may You accept the soul of Emmanuel Ribeiro for he did very much in the vineyard.” 

Born in Zimbabwe in 1935, Fr. Ribeiro was ordained a Priest in 1964. He served as the Prison Chaplain during the country’s struggle for independence. 

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In his tenure as Prison Chaplain, Fr. Ribeiro facilitated the current President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa’s removal from death row after he had been arrested for bombing the Rhodesian locomotive at Fort Victoria railway station.

The late Priest also planned the escape to Mozambique of the former President Robert Mugabe and Edgar Tekere during the struggle for the then Southern Rhodesia’s liberation in 1975.

He was the head of the committee that wrote the country’s national anthem and was among the designers of Zimbabwe’s national flag.

In 2019, he was among religious leaders under the auspices of the National Elders Forum who called for the removal of sanctions declared on Zimbabwe. 

The late Fr. Ribeiro is also credited with composing the first liturgical hymns in the Shona language. He was also a novelist.


For Mobie Musakatiza, Fr. Ribeiro was “a gift to the Catholic Church and the Nation.”

“Your contribution to the Church is great. You blessed us with the gift of your sacred music compositions. You blessed us with your novels too,” Mr. Musakatiza says in a Facebook post.

He adds that “liberation struggle is incomplete” without mentioning Fr. Ribeiro.

“Those who went to war in the 60s and 70s truly know how you were part of that struggle. A true Son of the Soil,” Mr. Musakatiza says.

On his part, Munyaradzi B Gwanzura, says that the late Priest “fulfilled his God-given purpose in whatever context in which he found himself.”

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He recalls meeting Fr. Ribiero at a choir meeting, saying, “He came to train our choir. In barely an hour I'd learnt a lot from him. Discipline being the key lesson.”

“I only did one Choral Music Conducting lesson with the Padre. In that short space of time, I was very inspired,” Gwanzura says, recalling the giftedness of the late Catholic Priest.

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.