Beatification advances for ‘genuine martyr’ who resisted African witchcraft

Servant of God Benedict Daswa
Servant of God Benedict Daswa

.- The conclusion of a five-year diocesan inquiry has advanced the beatification cause of a South African man who was murdered as a “genuine martyr” after a life of resisting witchcraft and condemning murderous witch hunts.

Servant of God Benedict Daswa belonged to the small Lemba tribe among the Venda people in the Limpopo Province in northernmost South Africa.

According to the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), he became a Catholic while training to become a elementary school teacher.

Realizing that common beliefs and practices concerning witchcraft were against his faith, he took a strong stand against them because he believed they led to the killing of innocent people accused of witchcraft activities.

Daswa also rejected the use of “muti” or medicines for protection against evil or for success in sports or other activities.

In 1990 he refused to give money for the purpose of “smelling out” witches. Days later, on Feb. 2, he was stoned and bludgeoned to death. He was killed four months before his 44th birthday.

“All the indications points to the fact that Benedict Daswa led a holy life and became a genuine martyr for the faith,” a statement from the SABC said.

The Diocese of Tzaneen opened an inquiry into Daswa’s death, concluding it on July 2, 2009. The investigation produced over 850 pages of testimonies from reliable witness to the life and death of Daswa.

Copies of the investigation were sent to Archbishop Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for Causes of Saints. The documents were signed by Bishop of Tzaneen Hugh Slattery, Sr. Sally Duigan OLSH, Diocesan Chancellor Fr. Andre Bohas MSC and Promoter of Justice Eddie O’Neill SDB.

Fr. Bohas was the postulator in Daswa’s beatification and canonization cause, which is the first for a South Africa-born Catholic.

According to the SACBC, prayer cards and a novena will be prepared to help people pray for favors through the intercession of the Servant of God Benedict Daswa.

A short biography and DVD will be produced to make him more widely known in South Africa and in other African countries.

The SACBC statement called Daswa “a role model to us all and a great witness to our faith.”

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