THE BEATIFICATION CEREMONY
Held at Tshitanini – 13 September 2015
When the Diocese of Tzaneen was informed by the Sacred Congregation in Rome that Tshimangadzo Samuel Benedict Daswa was to be Beatified on Sunday 13 September 2015 by a representative of the Pope, His Eminence Angelo Cardinal Amato, the committee responsible for the Beatification Ceremony decided that the best place for this would be the very site at Tshitanini which the diocese intends to make the place of Pilgrimage.
Though there were absolutely no facilities at all on the property to cope with the expected crowds, the diocese realised that these would have to be provided at some considerable cost. It was nevertheless decided that by using the property for the beatification, an indelible stamp of the place of the future Shrine to Blessed Benedict Daswa, would be deeply imprinted on the minds of the people. The attraction of the beautiful setting of the site would make people want to return in Pilgrimage to venerate Blessed Benedict Daswa. From reports received since the Beatification Ceremony it seems clear that many people will be returning to Tshitanini.
The facilities required for the Beatification Ceremony were put in place through the hard work of the local committee with some professional assistance. A large part of the tenting, all the ablution facilities, catering requirements and other necessities were hired from local suppliers in the area. Local vendors also provided food and other supplies for the ordinary people in an array of stalls along the roadside of the boundary fence.
The Government of South Africa, the Province of Limpopo and the Thulamela Local Municipality were generous in their assistance with improving the gravel road to the site, clearing areas for parking, providing emergency services, traffic police to control vehicles, safety officers and the presence of the South African Police Service.
There was a large Media presence with 350 Media Passes issued on the day. The SABC, the national television broadcaster, televised the whole Ceremony live on News Channel 404, as well as on SABC 2 and we know that it was watched by millions of viewers world-wide. The other television units in attendance were from the BBC and French TV. These broadcasts would have had broad overseas exposure. The SABC and DSTV also had live commentary with reports and some live commentary on a number of radio stations both local and overseas. There were also a number of News Agencies in attendance, including ENCA, three French News Agencies, German News Agencies, The Star, The Sowetan, City Press, The New Age, Times Media, AD News, Independent News, The Catholic Newspaper from South Australia, and The Southern Cross, which is the Catholic Newspaper in South Africa.
The Beatification Ceremony was attended by an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 people, including the following dignitaries and Daswa Family members:
- His Excellency Deputy-President of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa;
- The Minister of Water and Sanitation, Ms Nomvula Mokonyane;
- The Minister of Transport, Ms Elizabeth Dipuo Peters;
- The Venda King, King Tony Mphephu, Thovhela M Mphaphuli, and about 20 Traditional Leaders
- Mr Rob Tooley, representing the Premier of Limpopo Province, Mr Chupu Mathabatha;
- The Premier of Gauteng Province, Mr David Makhura;
- The Thulamela Mayor, Counsellor Grace Mahosi;
- The Leader of COPE, Mr Mosiuoa Lekota;
- Members of the Daswa Family, led by Mrs Ida Thidziambi Daswa, 90 year–old Mother of Blessed Benedict.
The Catholic Church was represented by:
- Angelo Cardinal Amato SDB, representing Pope Francis;
- Wilfrid Cardinal Napier OFM, Archbishop of Durban;
- Archbishop Stephen Brislin, Chairman of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference;
- Bishop Joao Rodrigues, Bishop of the Diocese of Tzaneen
- Bishop Hugh Slattery MSC, Bishop-Emeritus of the Diocese of Tzaneen
- Thirty-five Bishops from South Africa and neighbouring countries
- Approximately 300 priests, 20 Religious Brothers and 300 Religious Sisters from all parts of the country and neighbouring countries
- Over 40 Seminarians studying for the Priesthood
- Representatives from other Christian Denominations.
It was initially was thought that about 15,000 people would attend the Ceremony. Reliable estimates put the congregation in attendance at between 40,000 and 45,000 people. This really manifested the great devotion that the ordinary people have for the Blessed Martyr. People came on foot, by taxi, bus and car from all over South Africa and from our neighbouring countries – from places as far away as Cape Town, Durban, Kimberly, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Eastern Cape and Soweto. Countries as distant as Australia, the United States of America, Italy, France, Ireland and England were also represented at the beatification. All participated with exuberant joy, reverence and respect. It was indeed a remarkable and uplifting experience for all those fortunate to have been there on that unforgettable day.
There is a definite groundswell of devotion to Blessed Tshimangadzo Samuel Benedict Daswa among Catholics and many others of various faiths in this Diocese and elsewhere in Southern Africa, as well as in many other countries around the world. There has been public support for Blessed Benedict’s unequivocal opposition to witchcraft, which was strongly emphasized by His Excellency, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his speech at the Beatification. The Diocese is confident that this support and devotion will grow significantly in the coming years.
Mr Gabriel Malaka, a member of the Daswa Shrine Development Committee, has written an article on the issue of ritual killings, witchcraft and the positive impact that the “Blessed Tshimangadzo Samuel Benedict Daswa Shrine” will have on the people of the Vhembe Region, the rest of Limpopo and on Africa in general. A copy of his article is included on page 30.
The first Feast Day of Blessed Benedict Daswa was celebrated on the Tshitanini site, attended by a sizable crowd on Monday 1st February 2016.