Murder victim may be South Africa’s 1st saint

Schoolteacher beat to death after arguing against superstition

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“This school is my home,” said Alicia Nembambula, who taught there when Daswa was its principal. “Wherever we look, we have his memory. If he is looking at us, he can see his fruits.”

But he also made enemies with his opposition to superstitious practices and his defense of people accused of witchcraft. He already had had to cut his ties with the soccer team he had founded because he would not let the players carry lucky charms.

Lightning sparked trouble

The trouble came to a head in 1990 when lightning damaged some of the village huts. The village headman gathered his counselors, Daswa among them, in the kraal, the cattle enclosure that served as a meeting place.

Daswa argued that lightning was a natural phenomenon and refused to join in paying for a witch finder.

A week later, driving home, he found the road blocked by a log. It was an ambush. Young men pelted him with stones. He fled across a field and into a village pub, where he was clubbed and beaten to death.

It was Feb. 2, 1990. On that day, F.W. de Klerk, the country’s last white president, announced he was legalizing the African National Congress and would soon free its imprisoned leader, Nelson Mandela.

Mr. Maphaphuli said his friend was human, with faults; he could be sharp-tongued, but quick to apologize. He could be boastful about his faith, but he kept to his promises. He was a respected man, relatively rich, and that stirred jealousy.

Daswa’s commitment to resisting superstition became all too public, Mr. Maphaphuli suggested.

“It’s then that they started to hate him, to hunt him, because they wanted to do away with him,” Mr. Maphaphuli said.

In 2009, diocesan officials presented an initial case for beatification, based on Daswa’s writings and interviews with those who had known him, to the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. The Vatican accepted the dossier and moved to the next step of formally requesting further documentation. That should be completed by year’s end and a recommendation made to the pope.

For Daswa to be canonized, the Vatican would have to be satisfied that he had performed a miracle intervened from heaven on behalf of someone on earth.

 “Providence takes over,” Bishop Rodrigues said. “We can just pray.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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