Night vigil to be held for SA’s first Catholic martyr

Benedict Daswa will be declared martyr during a beatification mass on Sunday for dying for his faith.

Screengrab of Benedict Daswa from the documentary, Tshimangadzo- The Life of Benedict Daswa. Picture: Youtube

JOHANNESBURG - Celebrations for the beatification of the first South African man will kick off tonight in Tshitanini near Thohoyandou in Limpopo where thousands of people will spend the night in prayer during a vigil.

Benedict Daswa will be declared martyr during a beatification mass in the province on Sunday for dying for his faith and beliefs in 1990.

Daswa was murdered in February of 1990, just nine days before the late Nelson Mandela was released from jail, for refusing to pay money to take part in witchcraft.

More than 30,000 people are expected attend the mass, including Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and a representative from the Vatican Cardinal Angelo Amato who will officiate the beatification.

The Jesuit Institute's Father Russell Pollitt say this is a significant mass for South Africa.

"He's the first martyr for South Africa. In fact the first person who has been in anyway recognised by the Vatican as a holy person in South Africa."

Watch: Tshimangadzo - The Life of Benedit Daswa (full version)

In 1990 Daswa was stoned, beaten and burnt to death in Limpopo for refusing to contribute to paying a witch doctor that would explain who was responsible for the heavy lightning experienced the previous night.

And it's this act that earned him the title of first martyr to be beatified in Southern Africa, 25 years later.

In both his private and public life Daswa took a strong stand in his faith, insisting on rejecting cultural practices that were not aligned to his religious beliefs.