Classic DACB Collection

All articles created or submitted in the first twenty years of the project, from 1995 to 2015.

Moetapele, David

Catholic Church
South Africa

David Moetapele David Moetapele was born in Pretoria on July 12, 1933. He went to St. Theresa Minor Seminary in Roma, Lesotho where he completed his matric in 1953. He joined the archdiocese of Pretoria and went to St. Peter’s Major Seminary from 1955 to 1960. He was ordained at St. Anne’s in Attridgeville on June 30, 1960. While he was at the major seminary there were two separate seminaries: one for blacks and the other for whites. This was formally established by the South African Catholic Bishop Conference (SACBC) in 1947. As Moetapele recalled: “At the seminary, it was still under the influence of apartheid. That time we had separate seminaries, the white seminary St. John Vianney was already there. Pevensey was the seminary for black students who wanted to be diocesan priests. St. Peters was run by the Congregation of Mariannhill Missionaries priests (CMM).” [1]

After Moetapele’s ordination he was appointed at the archdiocesan minor seminary called St. Michael’s in Modimong mission where there was already a big convent for sisters and a high school.[2] Moetapele was an assistant rector to Fr. Aloysuis Khoza. Black priests in the Pretoria archdiocese were put in responsible positions unlike in other dioceses like Mariannhill and Natal as Moetapele explained:

Immediately we were given responsibilities unlike down there in Natal where it was worse, especially in Mariannhill, and guys had to struggle. St. Michael’s minor seminary catered to the Pretoria, Johannesburg, Witbank, and Pietersburg dioceses. Some students from Pietersburg went to Perks College, where the Brothers of Charity taught and others came to us. Then we moved to Hammanskraal, next to St. Peter’s Major Seminary. They changed the name of the minor seminary to St. Paul’s Minor Seminary.[3] The priests who ran the seminary were myself, Fr. Hill, and Fr. John Louwfant from the diocese of Pretoria. So it was an improvement.[4]

While Moetapele was vice rector of St. Paul’s Minor Seminary he was involved in organizations that promoted the rights of black priests in South Africa. For instance, in 1965, former students of St. Peter’s seminary met and formed an ad hoc council to look closely at issues of racism:

We started the council so that we could be heard, having a black priest platform. It had to be formed because we felt that our voice was not heard as black priests in the Catholic Church by the bishops. At that time, it was not a question of diocesan priests, it was a question of black and white. The South African Council of Priests (SACOP) was for general issues on how to run the church. However, the priests were divided into black and white. So the black priests felt that they were being overlooked. It was only the white guys who were talking from the point of view of a white person. That is how this ad hoc council was formed.[5]

The formation of the ad hoc committee led to the formation of St. Peter’s Old Boys Association (SPOBA).

St. Peter’s Old Boys Association

St. Peter’s Old Boys Association (SPOBA) was formally established in July of 1966. But the desire to express the concern of black clergy had existed before that. From July 4 to 7, 1966, a convention was held at Hammanskraal, with an attendance of thirty-one former students of St. Peter’s Catholic Seminary. Moetapele also attended this convention which gave birth to the association that came to be known as SPOBA.[6]

A number of papers were presented at the conference. The first one delivered by Fr. Oswin Magrath, rector of St. Peter’s, was entitled “Unity of the Clergy in Southern Africa.” In the inaugural lecture of the scholastic year in February 1962, Magrath had expressed his concern that the training of black clergy in a separate institution should not put the unity of the church at risk:

The unity of the church, and its future,…demands that [the African orientation of the seminary] should not go so far as to produce a clergy segregated (even by their own choice or inclination) from the rest of the clergy, nationalistic or even anti-white in spirit, and even perhaps tribally divided among themselves. This would be an unhappy result. On the contrary it should produce clergy who are truly catholic, ready to serve any members of the church, ready to work with any other clergy.[7]

In his 1966 paper, Magrath was still emphasizing that clergy should unite.[8] He referred to Vatican II and pleaded for an integrated clergy. He also appealed to black clergy, asking them to help white clergy evolve in the new situation. In his paper, he declared that Africans were meant to be leaders in their churches and encouraged them to be prepared to take up such roles. Other priests also gave papers. For instance, Fr. Anthony Mabona spoke on liturgy and Fr. Finbar Synnott on the second Vatican council (Vatican II). Officers for the association were elected: Smangaliso Mkhatshwa as chairman, David Moetapele as vice-chairperson, John Louwfant as secretary, Raphael Mosiea as vice-secretary, and Thlamelo Kolisang as treasurer. Moetapele emphasized the fact that:

We felt it was important to form our own association for black diocesan priests. We must establish ourselves and we must speak out. Other religious priests had no reason to join SPOBA because they were supported by their congregations. We formed SPOBA and we were called the communist priests and were marginalized. We were troubling the bishops and the church and bringing a lot of conflict in the church. And yet, today they are following what we were telling them about. The only thing is that the church is slow. The things we were talking about in the 1960s are the things that are happening now. But the church, as usual, is very slow.[9]

There were many reasons for forming the association. The chairman of the association, Mkhatshwa, was working with coal miners from the neighboring countries. He thought that he had to reflect on his theology, his ministry, and his spirituality. As a black priest, he had benefited a great deal from the teaching of the Dominican priests who were running St. Peter’s Seminary at the time. Most of them had been trained at Oxford and other English universities. They were seen as very progressive priests: “It was also at the end of the Vatican II council. In order to make sure that the spirit of Vatican II continued, we thought of forming SPOBA.”[10] For Moetapele, SPOBA was formed because the kind of training they had received had probably prepared them to face the new challenges posed by the socio-political situation of South Africa. As he said:

The Dominican priests changed things at the seminary. The Dominican fathers really did a great job until the seminary was moved to Hammanskraal. They changed things and the food was improved. The whole atmosphere, the education and access to the library changed. During the CMM’s time, we went to the library once in the first week of the term and the rector was very controlling. He would issue you with one book to read the whole term. The library was locked throughout the term– this was not freedom–it only came with the Dominicans.[11]

Moetapele also felt that SPOBA was formed because it could help them come to grips theologically with the pastoral and theological challenges of the times.

The Petitions

The Black Consciousness Movement started flowing into SPOBA from about 1971 onwards. According to Clement Mokoka, SPOBA was “an organized platform to challenge and oppose the hierarchy’s predilection to support the settler regime actively at the expense of the indigenous clergy, laity, and the oppressed and exploited community at large.”[12] There was “a two stream church, namely, the quest for an autochthonous church represented by the black clergy and laity, on the one hand, and the struggle to establish the legitimacy as well as the superiority of Euro-Christians represented by the hierarchy on the other hand.”[13]

SPOBA started sending petitions to the hierarchy immediately after its inception in 1966. Several other petitions followed in 1968 and 1969. Their main theme was the “right to self-determination on the plea of mature manhood.”[14] This theme had already been put to Joseph Gerard, the Oblate missionary, by the Zulu people when they said to him, “Let the white man leave us alone.”[15] The same theme was identified by Archbishop Peter Butelezi in his summary of SPOBA’s history: “SPOBA came in an era of strong Black Consciousness at the end of the 1960s, when there was a danger of forming a black church of all Christian groups.”[16] As Moetapele emphasized:

Hey man, all sorts of things were happening. We were questioning the leadership of the church in South Africa. The majority of Catholics in South Africa are blacks but the leadership of the church is white. How come? This is an anomaly which must be rectified. Also, we wanted to know how a bishop is chosen and who chooses the bishops because we were not consulted. You find that you have a white bishop where the majority of Christians in the diocese are black. Whites are in the minority but they are in the decision making positions. We could not understand this.[17]

These petitions were dismissed by the hierarchy because they did not regard them as being a true representation of the black membership of the church. Another reason, according to Mkhatshwa and Moetapele, was that the bishops were not in a position to do anything about them. Lastly, it appears that they did not take the petitions seriously enough and did not see the necessity of responding to them as a matter of urgency. So the black priests did not receive any response to most of the petitions which were sent to the bishops:

They (the bishops) did not reply. Instead they would write their letters in a watered down manner. They were afraid, man! They would not bring out those issues. They would not admit the problems which existed in the church. They would say things are being arranged and things have to be slowly improved. We didn’t want that! There was a lot of mistrust between the blacks and the whites because we didn’t know each other. Whites grew up in a different world from us and we must meet in the mission field. For instance, if you are a white guy and I am a black guy and we had to run a parish, the problem was that I wouldn’t trust you and you won’t trust me either. So how were we going to agree? So there was a lot of mistrust going on.[18]

By the late 1960s, Black Consciousness had entered both the major and minor seminary in Hammanskraal. Its insertion was going to make the seminarians very vocal politically and theologically.

Black Consciousness in the Church

Black Consciousness had a great impact on South African society and the churches were no exception. Its origins were deeply rooted in Christianity. In 1966, the Anglican Church under the incumbent, Archbishop Robert Selby Taylor, convened a meeting which later led to the foundation of the University Christian Movement (UCM). This was to become the vehicle for Black Consciousness.

In 1968, at a UCM meeting in Stutterheim where blacks were in the majority, Steve Biko started canvassing for an all black university movement.[19] A situation arose where the black delegates met alone to discuss “the problem relating to a clause in the Group Areas Act which ruled that blacks may not be in an urban area for more than seventy-two hours without a permit.”[20] The forty black participants used this opportunity to discuss an all black student movement. This resulted in the formation of a black caucus group. The membership consisted of university students, teacher training college students, seminarians, and pastors.

In December 1968, the students at the Medical School of the University of Natal in Durban (present-day University of KwaZulu-Natal) convened a conference which led to the launching of the South Africa Students Congress (SASO). This conference took place at Mariannhill High School, run by the Catholic church. SASO formally broke away from the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS), a student organization run by white liberal students. NUSAS survived as a multi-racial organization which acted as a platform for political issues for English-speaking and black campuses. But it was not seen as an organization that adequately addressed the needs of black students.

The SASO policy manifesto gave the following definition of Black Consciousness:

Black Consciousness is … an attitude of mind, a way of life. The basic tenet of Black Consciousness is that the black man must reject all value systems that seek to make him a foreigner in the country of his birth and reduce his basic human dignity. The black man must build up his own value system, see himself as self-defined and not defined by other. The concept of Black Consciousness implies the awareness of the black people of power they wield as a group, both economically and politically. Hence group cohesion and solidarity are important facets of Black Consciousness. It will always be enhanced by the totality of the oppressed people. Hence the message of Consciousness has to be spread to reach all sections of the black community.[21]

At the religious level, Black Consciousness finds its expression in Black Theology. This movement is essentially a re-examination of the black man’s religious make up and an attempt to unite the black man to God. SASO sees Black Theology as an existential theology that grapples with the black man’s day-to-day experience.[22] Black Consciousness became very effective in the 1970s. In many churches, a change was beginning to occur through the philosophy of Black Consciousness and through Black Theology.

Furthermore, in the Catholic Church the second Vatican council (Vatican II) brought about drastic changes. Also influential was Pope John XXIII’s social teachings as spelled out in his pastoral letters Pacem in Terris and Mater et Magistra. There was new unconditional support for the human rights of all people irrespective of civilization or culture. In 1972, the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) published a document entitled A Call to Conscience. This publication was greatly influenced by Vatican II. The bishops made positive recommendations about trade unions, minimum wages, welfare, redistribution of wealth, and the church’s responsibility to the poor. They also spoke out for the detained, banned, and restricted. The effects of Black Consciousness and Vatican II were deeply intertwined. They fed on each other.

The Black Priests’ Manifesto

On the morning of January 23, 1970, The Rand Daily Mail published a manifesto entitled: “Our Church has let us down.” The document was just the tip of the iceberg. As the black clergy had received no response from their petitions to the bishops since 1966, by the end of 1969, they had no alternative but to express their concerns publicly through the printed media. The Manifesto aired their grievances, by saying that all avenues which the authors had tried before had been closed to them. They mentioned the petitions of 1966, 1968, and 1969. The five signatories to the Manifesto were Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, David Moetapele, John Louwfant, Clement Mokoka, and Anthony Mabona.

The five priests emphatically stated that: “Be that as it may, we want to state that the African is capable of an agonizing ‘ENOUGH! ENOUGH!’ In spite of our ordination, we have been treated like glorified altar boys.”[23] The Manifesto then moved on to the issue of Africanization. In his address to the African Bishops in Uganda, Pope Paul VI had said, “You can give the church the precious and original contribution of negritude [a consciousness of and pride in the cultural and physical aspects of the African heritage][24] which she needs particularly.”[25] Emphasizing similar sentiments, Cardinal Zoungrana “reminded his colleagues that before they could realize the pope’s ambition, it was imperative to rediscover what he called the African soul.”[26] However, despite the fact that the pope and a cardinal encouraged the African bishops to proceed with Africanization, not much had been done to implement Africanization in southern Africa.

The Manifesto then dealt with the issue of apartheid. The Catholic Church was putting up a face as if they condemned apartheid: “Yet, in practice, they cherish it. The church practiced segregation in her seminaries, convents, hospitals, schools, monasteries, associations and churches long before the present government legislated against social integration.”[27] The clergy itself was divided on the question of apartheid as Moetapele pointed out earlier. Some were non-conformists like Archbishop Denis Hurley. Other white priests were sympathetic to the government’s apartheid policy. As far as the five signatories were concerned, as Christians they believed in a multi-racial society. They felt that this was the “only way” in which real Christianity could be practiced.[28] In other words, the African needed to assert himself in the light of all these challenges, that is, apartheid and segregation. What the black priests wanted was for society to be normal again. It had to become a multi-racial society instead of a divided society.[29]

Having set the scene, the signatories enumerated grievances which encompassed the process of Africanization. They suggested, among other things, that bishops widen their approach to the apostolate. An African Affairs Department had to be created to “look after the interests of black Catholics.”[30] The black priests preferred to “manage or mismanage” themselves, otherwise they would forever remain “black boys under the rectorship of white boys.”[31] The last suggestion was directed at the white priests when they said, “Let our white colleagues cease to pretend to be impeccable angels at our expense.”[32]

In conclusion, the authors of the Manifesto reaffirmed their commitment to the Catholic Church. They said that they wished to reassure readers that they were sincere men who wished to put things right in the church:”Please do not misunderstand us. We have in the past presented to the hierarchy resolutions that were passed in July 1966, but to no effect.”[33] As Moetapele expands:

Yes, because our petitions were sent to them and they would not hear a thing, and they would dilute the whole thing, you know they were being complacent, they would say, things will be done and things will eventually come right. It is just a passing phase of apartheid. On the other hand, they said we were making noise. These are peripheral or marginalized priests. Some even telephoned us and called us all sorts of names. We were called communists, united in evil and all this used to come from the white priests. Even some nuns in the some converts were against us. They used to say, “those don’t have any faith and we don’t know whether they believe in Holy Mass and whether they are still praying.” Hey man! Things were really bad. They treated us as if we were lepers.[34]

However, the priests were supported by lay people from different parishes. The priests who belonged to religious congregations did not take an active role in addressing these issues as Moetapele explains:

But the lay people stood by us. We said we are not going for religious [i.e. we are not looking for the support of those in religious orders], they are indoctrinated. We are going to our lay people and there will be support. We called meeting after meeting with our lay people and we went for those outspoken lay Catholics and non-Catholics, because we were all fighting for the same thing–the liberation of a black person in South Africa. Whether it is within the church or outside the church, it is the same struggle. We could not use the church’s media, the Southern Cross–that was a white man’s paper. They would not have published the Manifesto. So we went to the lay media. That is how it came out in The Star and Rand Daily Mail. We used to meet at Regina Mundi in Soweto–things were happening in Soweto![35]

Steve Biko said that white liberals “are claiming a monopoly on intelligence and moral judgment and setting the pattern and pace for the realization of black man’s aspiration.”[36] It was time for blacks to liberate themselves. Blacks experienced their own particular problems in their institutions.[37] The Manifesto expresses many facets of Black Consciousness. We see the priests breaking the tradition that said “Africans have infinite patience.”[38] This was attributed to the African’s laziness, generally identifying him to be inferior to the white man. The priests questioned this paradigm (which I will call the “race paradigm”). They said “enough, enough!” They were laying their grievances on the table and breaking the bad tradition which had existed for three centuries.

They tried to see a way out and suggested solutions when they said: “The African wants to rediscover his personality and identity. He wishes to develop all his faculties–mental, physical, aesthetic. We wonder whether he can achieve this in the midst of white people. Competition will always be in their favor.”[39] This, in essence, was the philosophy of Black Consciousness. Mamphela Ramphele said that blacks were supposed to see themselves as black first and foremost and commit themselves to the struggle. By discovering their mental faculties they would be themselves–black![40]

They also wanted to develop on their own instead of being under the “rectorship” of the white priests. This was to become a great emphasis in Black Consciousness and led to projects designed to empower and uplift the black people. The black priests upset the falsely apprehended world view of the white priests and voiced their grievances, stating why they did not agree with what was happening. They also came up with suggestions for the future.

The Bishops’ Response

After the publication of the Manifesto, the bishops released a press statement saying that they would do what was possible to meet the proposals put forward by the black priests. “We sympathize with your good feelings in furthering the cause of the church, but we expect the same from you.”[41] With these words Cardinal McCann summarized the discussions held on February 7, 1970, between the administrative board of the Bishops’ Conference and the five signatories of the Manifesto.[42]

In their response to the Manifesto, the bishops gave facts and figures on the responsibilities given to various priests in their dioceses and “the scope for African laymen and priests offered in the course of the years.”[43] There was a great need for trust on both sides. It was also necessary to take cognizance of positive results achieved over the course of years. According to the spokesman of the conference, “taking all circumstances into consideration,” the meeting was a “moderate achievement.”[44]

The Manifesto was published in the African Ecclesiastical Review in December 1970. In a word of conclusion, the editor expressed the opinion that the Manifesto stood out as a “loyal” and “frank” document. He hoped that it was going to further the dialogue between the parties concerned. “A divided house cannot stand.”[45]

Reflecting on the Manifesto, Moetapele noted:

Things changed very slowly, I would say things changed slowly and reluctantly. They were forced by circumstances. Reluctantly from the kind of people they chose without proper consultation. They chose their own men and they knew they would still retain their own authority. The white man still ruled and made all the decisions. Up to now it is still there, but in a subtle way. They give you a number of black bishops, but who are the guys who are in charge? It is still the white man! Well, even in the government it is still coming, but the white man still has the economic power. The economy is still in the hands of the white person. We still have a long way to go, a very long way.[46]

The five priests initiated the process as they were near each other and very conscious of what was going on. The Manifesto was a way of mobilizing the people as many were scattered all over the country. After this incident SPOBA grew from strength to strength when people began to realize that what they had done had the support of certainly the majority of the black priests but even white priests to some extent, as Mkhatshwa confirmed: “I still have the correspondence of some priests who wrote in support of what we had done.”[47] Through SPOBA and certain elements of Black Consciousness, the hierarchy was forced to make changes that had not been considered until then. To a certain degree, therefore, tangible results were achieved by the Manifesto, as the process of Africanization was slowly beginning to take root.

The “Black Demos”

In 1971, during a tour of Australia, Cardinal Owen McCann gave a speech which had serious repercussions in South Africa, especially among SPOBA members. His speech appeared in the Star on October 27. He said inter alia that color should not be the criterion for one to have a franchise but the ability to vote in a truly responsible manner. “If Black Africans were given immediate and complete control of the country, then chaos would result. (…) The black man is not ready to assume control of his destiny.”[48] This statement was interpreted as a lack of confidence in Africans and seen as insulting. He was still caught up in and limited by the apartheid world view. As Moetapele explained:

We picked up on the cardinal’s comments. SPOBA was quite organized. We had links with the outside world. Anthony Mabona stayed a long time overseas studying in Rome. So through him we could get these links outside. Guys knew how to go about getting information in the church. So Mabona got it from his friend who said that your bishop Owen McCann, wakhuluma kanje kanje wathumela ne speech sakhe (said this and that and he sent him the cardinal’s speech).[49]

Through such networks the SPOBA members were always ahead of their time in terms of opposing racial tendencies within the church. As Moetapele continues to say:

Mabona called us and we sat down. We tore the thing to pieces. That was the day when we confronted the bishops. We really went up to St. John Vianney seminary. They were having their plenary session there. That is when we confronted them. The march was with lay people. Dominic Scholten was the secretary general. He tried to stop us but we said–no way! This was a black issue. That is when we formulated the memorandum. It was all ready and we had those points, even the speech of Owen McCann. If that guy did not faint and die that day–angazi! (I don’t know). He was breathing so hard and we said: “No, you said that, a whole leader of the Catholic church, saying such things openly. Now, why are you a bishop in South Africa? The majority of Catholics are not whites and you speak so badly about black people, this time including colored people and you call yourself a true leader of the people of the church–no way–you are racist!”[50]

After the publication of the speech in The Southern Cross, a group of African Catholic priests, all executive members of SPOBA[51], issued a memorandum to express their lack of confidence in the leadership of the Catholic Church under Cardinal McCann[52]: As Mkhatshwa observed: “As a matter of fact we even required his removal, his resignation as cardinal.”[53] They were annoyed that the cardinal was telling the whole world that Africans were unprepared for universal franchise and that they were immature. His words could be interpreted as a return to colonial tutelage.[54]

The aim of the memorandum was to highlight the way in which African people were discredited. They also wanted some clarification on the distorted reports. According to Mkhatshwa it was also to take a stand. “Such things are not said to people who have been oppressed and are still fighting for their freedom.” This raised the question of the quality of the training in the Catholic Church. How could they fail to produce a leader in all the time that they had been training the black people? The problem was with them and not with the black people. [55]

The cardinal’s statement led to considerable confrontation and tension in the Catholic Church. This was evident through what The Southern Cross called the “black demos.” These pressure groups existed as early as 1969 before the Manifesto was handed to the bishops. In July of 1970, another “demo” was staged, which resulted in a general disapproval and widespread disgust among whites. The 1971 “demo” demanded that Cardinal McCann of Cape Town and Archbishop Boyle of Johannesburg make way for African bishops. Some observers thought that it was a display of despicable racism.[56] According to them, these demands for black church leaders came from a type of Black Power Movement (BPM) which had its center in the Transvaal. The BPM had strong links with Black Consciousness movements which were affirming the dignity of black people. But other groups supported the “black demos” because they saw them as the only way of pushing the church into action.[57] The church should try to involve all the people concerned especially the blacks. The “demos” later played a very vital role in forcing both the church and state to take a stand on apartheid.

What did the Manifesto achieve?

The results of the Manifesto and the black demos were that some changes were beginning to take place in the church. For instance, before the end of 1970, Mkhatshwa from Witbank diocese joined the General Secretariat of the Bishops’ Conference in Pretoria. He was to share with Fr. Dominic Scholten the work of the Ecumenical Press, Justice and Peace Commissions.[58] In 1972, the Umzimkulu administrator Monsignor Peter Butelezi was appointed auxilliary bishop of Johannesburg. His appointment had a great impact as he said: “You see if I had been appointed to Durban or Cape Town, I would not have made the same impact. But being appointed to Johannesburg, then it meant the other places were open.”[59] This meant that other new black bishops could be appointed in other areas because a black bishop was appointed in South Africa’s biggest and richest diocese–Johannesburg! By 1974, the South African Council of Priests (SACOP) had set up a Black Affairs department as the Manifesto had suggested. It was the pressure of SPOBA that led to the formation of the department.

SPOBA as a pressure group was transformed into the the Permanent Black Priests Solidarity Group (PBPSG) in 1975 when the first black rector, Lebamang Sebidi, was appointed at St. Peter’s Seminary, Hammanskraal. There were probably other priests who could have taken up the job. One of the Manifesto signatories could have been appointed, for instance. Furthermore, SPOBA, which had started on July 6, 1966, became the PBPSG in 1976 (except in Natal) with a strong Black Consciousness flow from 1970 onwards.[60] The PBPSG became a pressure group within the churches in South Africa. The other churches came to recognize that the PBPSG was a pressure group which worked for their interests as well.

In the 1980s, the PBPSG was subsumed under Ministers United for Christian Co-responsibility (MUCCOR). The newly merged organization (MUCCOR) was a shift from the PBPSG in the sense that its role and responsibility was not only to pledge solidarity with people in the church but to have a responsibility with other members of society.[61] Moetapele continued to support the work of PBPSG, MUCCOR and the black community in various ways through his work. For instance, in the early 1980s, he organized community meetings at several parishes and, at one time, he phoned the archbishop of Pretoria for permission to use his church as Fr. Sean O’Leary recalled: “I remember one evening a priest ringing (the late David Moetapele) to ask if it was accepted for the community to use the church for a community meeting. The archbishop explained that it was fine to do so as this was SACBC policy. The priest then asked if he should take the Blessed Sacrament out of the tabernacle to which the archbishop replied that he thought Jesus would feel very much at home in a community meeting.”[62]

In the mid 1980s, Moetapele left St. Paul’s Minor Seminary. From that time on, he worked in several parishes in the black communities in Pretoria, for instance in Attridgeville, Soshanguve and Mamelodi. On October 1, 1997, he was admitted to the Holy Cross Home for the frail and aged in Pretoria North. His health deteriorated and he passed away on July 20, 1998.

George Sombe Mukuka


  1. David Moetapele, interview by author, November 24, 1997, Pretoria, tape recording. The CMM congregation was started by Abbot Franz Pfanner: See New Catholic Dictionary: “In 1882 Reverend Francis Pfanner, then prior of the Trappist (Reformed Cistercian) Monastery of Mariastern (Bosnia), volunteered to establish a monastery in Cape Colony, in order to try to adapt the rule of the order to the missionary life. He settled in a place he called Dunbrody in 1880, but was forced to abandon it in 1882, and transferred his community to Mariannhill, Natal. In 1885 Mariannhill was erected into an abbey, with Father Pfanner as first abbot. During the next few years Father Pfanner founded seven mission stations throughout Natal, to provide for the needs of the natives. Between 1894 and 1900 nine stations were established in Natal and Cape Colony, and two houses in German East Africa. Later a station was erected in Rhodesia, and two more in Natal. The Congregation of Regulars, in 1909, issued a decree separating Mariannhill from the order of Reformed Cistercians, forming it into the ‘Congregation of the Mariannhill Missionaries.’” (CMM), (accessed January 30, 2009).

  2. Joseph Kiely, “St. Anne’s Modimong: 50 Years of Excellence in Education” in Catholic Education News, Volume 14, Issue III (November, 2005), 13.

  3. Richard Elphick and T. R. H. Davenport, Christianity in South Africa: A Political, Social and Cultural History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 202.

  4. Moetapele, same interview.

  5. Moetapele, same interview.

  6. Gobi Clement Mokoka, “Black Experience in Black Theology. A Study of the RCC Missionary Endeavour in South Africa and the Search for Justice” (Ph.D. diss., Nijmegen Catholic University, October 1984), 53.

  7. Oswin Magrath, “St. Peter’s Seminary at the Service of the Catholic Church in Southern Africa. Inaugural Lecture for the Scholastic Year 1962,” typewritten document, 4 pages, Southern African Dominican Archives (SADA).

  8. Oswin Magrath, “St. Peter’s Seminary at the Service of the Catholic Church in Southern Africa. Inaugural Lecture for the Scholastic Year 1962,” typewritten document, 4 pages, Southern African Dominican Archives (SADA).

  9. Moetapele, same interview.

  10. Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, interview by author, December 12, 1995, Edenvale, tape recording.

  11. Moetapele, same interview.

  12. Gobi Clement Mokoka, “Black Experience in Black Theology. A Study of the RCC Missionary Endeavour in South Africa and the Search for Justice” (Ph.D. diss., Nijmegen Catholic University, October 1984), 53.

  13. Gobi Clement Mokoka, “Black Experience in Black Theology. A Study of the RCC Missionary Endeavour in South Africa and the Search for Justice” (Ph.D. diss., Nijmegen Catholic University, October 1984), 53.

  14. Gobi Clement Mokoka, “Black Experience in Black Theology. A Study of the RCC Missionary Endeavour in South Africa and the Search for Justice” (Ph.D. diss., Nijmegen Catholic University, October 1984), 54.

  15. Gobi Clement Mokoka, “Black Experience in Black Theology. A Study of the RCC Missionary Endeavour in South Africa and the Search for Justice” (Ph.D. diss., Nijmegen Catholic University, October 1984), 53.

  16. Archbishop Peter Buthelezi, interview by author, July 8, 1996, Bloemfontein, tape recording.

  17. Moetapele, same interview.

  18. Moetapele, same interview.

  19. Steve Biko was one of South Africa’s most significant political activists and a leading founder of South Africa’s Black Consciousness Movement. His death in police detention in 1977 led to his being hailed as a martyr of the anti-apartheid struggle.

  20. Takatso A. Mofokeng, The Crucified Among the Cross Bearers: Towards a Black Christology (Kampen: Uitgeversmaatschappij, 1983), 8.

  21. J. G. E Wolfson, Turmoil at Turfloop: A Summary of the Reports of the Synman and Jackson Commission of Inquiry into the University of the North (Johannesburg: South African Race Relations, 1976), 9.

  22. Barney Pityana (ed)., Bounds of Possibility: The Legacy of Steve Bantu Biko and Black Consciousness (Clarement: David Philip, 1992), 118.

  23. Rand Daily Mail (January 23, 1970). The Manifesto was re-edited in the African Ecclesiastical Review (AFER), vol. 12 (1970), pp. 175-77.

  24. “Negritude was both a literary and ideological movement led by French-speaking black writers and intellectuals. The movement is marked by its rejection of European colonization and its role in the African diaspora, pride in “blackness” and traditional African values and culture, mixed with an undercurrent of Marxist ideals. Its founders (or les trois pères), Aimé Césaire, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and Léon-Gontran Damas, met while studying in Paris in 1931 and began to publish the first journal devoted to Negritude, L’Étudiant noir (The Black Student), in 1934. The term “Negritude” was coined by Césaire in his Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (1939) and it means, in his words, “the simple recognition of the fact that one is black, the acceptance of this fact and of our destiny as blacks, of our history and culture.” Even in its beginnings Negritude was truly an international movement–drawing inspiration from the flowering of African-American culture brought about by the writers and thinkers of the Harlem Renaissance while asserting its place in the canon of French literature, glorifying the traditions of the African continent, and attracting participants in the colonized countries of the Caribbean, North Africa, and Latin America”. See “A Brief Guide to Negritude” (accessed March 21, 2009).

  25. Rand Daily Mail (January 23, 1970).

  26. Rand Daily Mail (January 23, 1970).

  27. Rand Daily Mail (January 23, 1970).

  28. Rand Daily Mail (January 23, 1970).

  29. Rand Daily Mail (January 23, 1970).

  30. Rand Daily Mail (January 23, 1970).

  31. Rand Daily Mail (January 23, 1970).

  32. Rand Daily Mail (January 23, 1970).

  33. Rand Daily Mail (January 23, 1970).

  34. David Moetapele, same interview.

  35. David Moetapele, same interview.

  36. Steve Biko, I Write What I Like (London: Heineman, 1978), 56.

  37. William Justin Beinart, Twentieth-Century South Africa (Cape Town: OUP, 1994),219

  38. Rand Daily Mail (January 23, 1970).

  39. Rand Daily Mail (January 23, 1970).

  40. Mamphele Ramphele, A Life (Cape Town: David Philips, 1993), 56.

  41. AFER, vol. 12 (1970), pp. 177-78.

  42. AFER, vol. 12 (1970), pp. 177-78.

  43. AFER, vol. 12 (1970), pp. 177-78.

  44. AFER, vol. 12 (1970), pp. 177-78.

  45. AFER, vol. 12 (1970), pp. 177-78.

  46. Moetapele, same interview.

  47. Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, same interview.

  48. Southern Cross (October 27,1971).

  49. Moetapele, same interview.

  50. Moetapele, same interview.

  51. It is important to note that the Manifesto signatories, Moetapele, Louwfant, Mokoka and Mabona, were still active in the executive of SPOBA.

  52. Southern Cross (February 17, 1971).

  53. Mkhatshwa, same interview.

  54. Southern Cross (April 7, 1971).

  55. Mkhatshwa, same interview.

  56. Southern Cross (August 11,1971).

  57. Southern Cross (September 15,1971).

  58. Southern Cross (January 6, 1971)

  59. Archibishop Peter Butelezi, interview by author, July 8, 1996, Bloemfontein, tape recording.

  60. Gobi Clement Mokoka, “Black Experience in Black Theology. A Study of the RCC Missionary Endeavour in South Africa and the Search for Justice” (Ph.D. diss., Nijmegen Catholic University, October 1984), 54.

  61. Peter Lenkoe, interview by author, June 19,1996, tape recording.
  62. Sean O’Leary, “Archbishop George Daniel’s farewell at Khanya house.” Homily. January 15, 2009. See com_myblog&show;=index.php?option=com_content&task;= view&id;=195&Itemid;=&Itemid;=167 (accessed 21 March 2009)


Oral interviews

Mkhatshwa, Smangaliso. Interview by author, December 12, 1995, Edenvale. Tape recording.

Moetapele, David. Interview by author, November 24, 1997, Pretoria. Tape recording.

Buthelezi, Peter. Interview by author, July 8, 1996, Bloemfontein. Tape recording.

Archival material

Magrath, Oswin “St Peter’s Seminary at the service of the Catholic Church in Southern Africa. Inaugural lecture for the scholastic year 1962”, typewritten document, 4 pages, Southern African Dominican Archives (SADA).


Beinart,William Justin. Twentieth-Century South Africa. Cape Town: OUP, 1994.

Biko, Steve, I Write What I Like. London: Heineman, 1978.

Elphick, Richard and Davenport, T. R. H. Christianity in South Africa: A Political, Social and Cultural History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Kiely, Joseph. “St. Anne’s Modimong: 50 years of excellence in education” in Catholic Education News. Volume 14, Issue III (November, 2005).

Mofokeng, Takatso A. The Crucified Among the Cross Bearers: Towards a Black Christology. Kampen: Uitgeversmaatschappij, 1983.

Mokoka, Gobi Clement. “Black Experience in Black Theology. A Study of the RCC Missionary Endeavour in South Africa and the Search for Justice.” Ph.D. diss., Nijmegen Catholic University, October 1984.

Pityana, Barney (ed)., Bounds of possibility: the legacy of Steve Bantu Biko and Black Consciousness. Clarement: David Philip, 1992.

Ramphele, Mamphele. A Life. Cape Town: David Philips, 1993.

Wolfson, J.G.E, Turmoil at Turfloop: a Summary of the Reports of the Synman and Jackson Commission of Inquiry into the University of the North. Johannesburg: South African Race Relations, 1976.

Newspapers / Journals

Rand Daily Mail (January 23, 1970).

African Ecclesiastical Review (AFER), vol. 12 (1970), pp. 175-77.

Southern Cross (October 27,1971).

Southern Cross (February 17, 1971).

Southern Cross (August 11,1971).

Southern Cross (September 15,1971).

This article, received inS 2009, was written by Dr. George Sombe Mukuka, a faculty research manager at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, and 2008-2009 DACB Project Luke Fellow.

Photo Gallery

David Moetapele

[1] Photo from George Mukuka photo collection, 1997.

Manifesto Signatories S [2] Five signatories of the Black Priests’ Manifesto: (from left to right) Louwfant, Mabona, Mkhatshwa, Moetopele, Mokoka. Photo from Magrath private file: Southern African Dominican Archives, Springs.