Murder of priest is not isolated, highlights violence in South Africa, say bishops

(Photo:SACBC)Father Paul Tatu Mothobi

South Africa's Catholic bishops have condemned and expressed concern at a "distressing" killing after the bullet-riddled body of a priest was found in his car outside the capital of Pretoria.

Father Paul Tatu Mothobi, former Media and Communications Officer of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC), was found dead on April 27

According to Crux News, the priest, who comes from Lesotho's Catholic Archdiocese of Maseru, was studying for his Doctorate in Communication at the University of Johannesburg when he died.

According to reports, Fr. Tatu's lifeless body with gunshot wounds was found on April 27 in his car on N1 Road, a national highway in South Africa, running from Cape Town through Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Polokwane to Beit Bridge, a border town with Zimbabwe, ACI Africa reports.

In an April 29 statement, SACBC members condole with the Stigmatines order and Tatu's family.

The Catholic Church leaders said, "It must be noted that the death of Fr. Paul Tatu is not an isolated incident but rather a distressing example of the deteriorating state of security and morality in South Africa."

They recalled the March 13 murder of Fr. William Banda, the Zambian-born member of St. Patrick's Missionary Society (Kiltegan Fathers), who was shot in the sacristy of the Holy Trinity Cathedral of South Africa's Tzaneen Diocese.

The murder of Fr. Tatu and that of Fr. Banda, SACBC members lament, "occurs amid growing concerns about the increasing disregard for the value of life, where people are wantonly killed."

Rev. Paul Tatu Mothobi was born in Lesotho in 1979 according to Vatican News

In 1998, he joined the Congregation of Sacred Stigmata of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Between 1999 and 2000, he did his philosophical studies at St Francis House of Studies in Pretoria. The following year, he moved to Botswana for formation at the Stigmatine Novitiate.

Before theological studies, the late Catholic Priest took a year off from Priestly formation, during which he lived with miners in South Africa's Free State; he accompanied miners in mining theory, setting theory, and English among other lessons.

He later resumed training as a priest, joining Pretoria-based St. John Vianney Seminary, under the Stigmatines order, for theology. He was ordained a priest in 2008.


The Stigmatines later sent Tatu to Tanzania as a missionary.

While in the East African nation, he pursued media and communication studies at Mwanza-based St. Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT) of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC)

"I worked closely with Father Tatu when he served the Church as the communication officer for SACBC," said Father Stan Muyebe, Director at the Justice and Peace Commission for Catholic Bishops Conference of Southern Africa.

"The two agencies, the communication office and SACBC Justice and Peace Commission, worked closely together.

"I remember him as a jovial and humble person, deeply committed to Christ and the mission of the Church, interested in continued learning and studies, and always seeking ways through which multimedia can be brought to the service of evangelization in Southern Africa," he told Crux.

"On behalf of the Bishops, I appeal to all people responsible for these murders to refrain from thinking that they can do what they like with people's lives. Life belongs to God, and no one has a right to take it as one pleases," Bishop Sipuka said.

He decried lawlessness in South Africa and, addressing himself to the President Cyril Ramaphosa-led government, said, "Mr President and Police minister, there is a growing impression among South Africans that criminals are freely murdering the citizens with no fear of consequences."

"A deliberate termination of the life of one person affects not only the person killed but a whole network of relationships of that person," SACBC members said.

South Africa's homicide rate in 2022-2023 was 45 per 100,000 people, compared with a rate of 6.3 in the United States and around 1 in most European countries, The Associated Press reported on Jan 7.

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