Priest shot dead in South Africa; Catholic bishops there decry ‘pandemic’ of murder

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ACI Africa, May 2, 2024 / 11:00 am

Father Paul Tatu Mothobi, a member the Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata (CSS/Stigmatines) and former media and communications officer of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), was reportedly murdered last weekend in South Africa.

According to a notice from the congregation’s South Africa-based provincial secretary, Father Jeremia Thami Mkhwanazi, Tatu died on Saturday, April 27, “after sustaining a gunshot.”

Tatu, a native of Lesotho’s Archdiocese of Maseru, was ministering in South Africa’s Archdiocese of Pretoria. According to reports, his lifeless body was found with gunshot wounds in his car on a national road in South Africa, which runs from Cape Town through Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Polokwane to Beit Bridge, a border town with Zimbabwe.

In a Monday, April 29, statement, SACBC members expressed condolences, describing his killing as “not an isolated incident,” recalling the March 13 murder of Father 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.

“Father Tatu worked for several years as the SACBC media and communications officer with dedication; we are saddened by his tragic death. We extend our condolences to the Stigmatine congregation, to which he belonged, and to his family,” bishops from Botswana, Eswatini, and South Africa said in the one-page statement signed by SACBC president Bishop Sithembele Sipuka.

“It must be noted that the death of Father Paul Tatu is not an isolated incident but rather a distressing example of the deteriorating state of security and morality in South Africa,” the Church leaders added.

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

Father Paul Tatu Mothobi was found dead of gunshot wounds on April 27, 2024, in his car on a national road in South Africa. A native of Lesotho’s Catholic Archdiocese of Maseru, he was ministering in South Africa’s Catholic Archdiocese of Pretoria. Credit: SACBC
Father Paul Tatu Mothobi was found dead of gunshot wounds on April 27, 2024, in his car on a national road in South Africa. A native of Lesotho’s Catholic Archdiocese of Maseru, he was ministering in South Africa’s Catholic Archdiocese of Pretoria. Credit: SACBC

Born in 1979 in Teyateyaneng, a town in Lesotho’s district of Berea, Tatu joined the Stigmatines in 1998. He studied philosophy at St. Francis House of Studies in Pretoria from 1999 to 2000 and moved to Botswana for his novitiate.

Before theological studies, the late priest took a year off from priestly formation to live with and teach miners in South Africa’s Free State. He later resumed his studies, joining Pretoria-based St. John Vianney Seminary, under the Stigmatines, for theology. He was ordained a priest in 2008.

The Stigmatines later sent him to Tanzania as a missionary, where he pursued media and communication studies at Mwanza-based St. Augustine University of Tanzania of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference

Tatu was also a collaborator of ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, more recently assisting with an April 9 story about an initiative to address drug addiction in youth.

In the April 29 statement, the bishops underscored the need for authorities in South Africa to protect human life.

“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,” the statement said. 

The bishops decried lawlessness in South Africa, addressing President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government: “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,” the SACBC statement continued. “… Killing one person brings about pain and misery to many people.”

The statement called on the government to put in place “immediate and effective measures to ensure the security of law-abiding citizens who work hard to support their families and for our Catholic priests who spend their lives serving the people of this country.”

“We appeal to you to make the well-being and safety of our people a top priority,” the bishops said. “As a Church, we are at your disposal for discussion and strategies to stop the murder of innocent people, which is now becoming a pandemic in this country.”

This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.


ACI Africa

ACI Africa (www.aciafricanews.com) is a service of EWTN News Inc. (www.ewtnnews.com) along with Catholic News Agency. It was officially inaugurated on Aug. 17, 2019, as a continental Catholic news agency serving the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to tell Africa’s news by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent and giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa. The editor-in-chief of ACI Africa is Father Don Bosco Onyalla.

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