Emmanuel Ribeiro

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Emmanuel Ribeiro

Father Emmanuel Francis Ribeiro was a Zimbabwean Roman Catholic Church priest, composer and novelist. Ribeiro has composed over 17 Roman Catholic Church songs. He was the head of the committee which penned Zimbabwe’s national anthem and was part of the committee which designed Zimbabwe’s national flag.


He was born in 1935 in Chivhu.[1]


Ribiero attended Kutama Mission, Gokomere and Gweru Teachers’ College. He studied Theology at Chishawasha before enrolling for a Masters’ Degree at Bloomington College of Music in the USA.[2] Father Emmanuel Ribeiro was posthumously awarded a Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) in African Theology by Zimbabwe Open University for his distinguished contributions to society.[3]


He was a correspondent for BBC.[4]

Career As A Priest

Ribeiro, who was trained at Chishawasha Mission from 1952 and was ordained on December 13, 1964. He celebrated 50 years as a Catholic priest on December 13, 2014 at St Peter’s Kubatana in Harare’s Highfield suburb. After his ordination in 1964, Father Ribeiro worked in Mhondoro, Highfield in Harare and from 1968 to 1983, he was a Prison Chaplain for Harare Central Prison, then half the country and the whole country. It was during this period that Fr Ribeiro met the majority of Zimbabwe’s nationalists.[5]

He was assistant chaplain-general of Prisons at the time when Emmerson Mnangagwa was in prison for bombing the Rhodesian locomotive at Fort Victoria railway station together with Mathew Malowa. Mnangagwa and other members of the Crocodile Gang were arrested and sentenced to death. Ribeiro facilitated Mnangagwa's removal from death row. Victor Mlambo and James Dhlamini who were also members of the Crodile Gang were hanged and buried at the prison.[6]

Father Ribeiro has a music career spanning over 60 years and has composed over 17 Roman Catholic Church songs including Mambo Mwari Wa masimba and Tauya Nozvipo Zvo Mupiro. He introduced vernacular songs and African musical instruments into the Catholic Church in the 1960s, in the wake of Vatican Council II, which opened up catholic rituals to indigenous languages. He was at the forefront of the global movement to make the mass locally relevant and understandable to the ordinary person. At the time, all catholic mass services were conducted in Latin.[7]

He also masterminded Robert Mugabe & Edgar Tekere’s great escape to Mozambique.[8] He sheltered Mugabe and Enos Nkala when they had been just released by Smith as outlaw Political prisoners after 12 years, at his rectory at Rhodesville Roman Catholic Church in 1975 and masterminded their escape. He dropped off Nkala at Mutanga Night Club whereby he was attended to by the Manager Paul Tangi Mhova Mkondo[9]

In 2019, he was part of a group of religious leaders under the banner of the National Elders Forum (NEF) that called for the removal of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe ahead of October 25 which was declared by SADC as a day to protest against the sanctions.[10]

Career As A Writer

He was elected the first chairman of the Shona and Ndebele Writers’ Association in 1967. Father Ribeiro wrote Shona epilogues for the Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation’s African Service for two years.[11]He is the author of three Shona novels Muchadura, Tonderai and Ndakaitei. [12] Ribeiro's first two Shona novels Muchadura and Tonderai won prizes in competitions arranged by the Rhodesia Literature Bureau.Fr Ribeiro’s first novel Muchadura earned him £35. More than 3 000 copies were sold. Muchadura has been used as a set book. [13]

The first Roman Catholic Church song he composed, Gamuchirai Mambo mupiro uyu came in 1961 and continues to be sung today. His other popular compositions include Alleluia munyika dzose, Tauya nezvipo zvemupiro, Mambo Mwari wamasimba, Hwayana yaMwari, Mwari Ngaarumbidzwe amongst others.[14]


  • Muchadura (1967)
  • Tonderai (1969)
  • Ndakaitei


  • He was Constantino Chiwenga's spiritual mentor for three years while they were studying at Indiana University, Bloomington campus in the United States.[15]
  • Ribeiro was the head of the committee which penned the country’s national anthem and was part of the committee which designed Zimbabwe’s national flag. [16]


Emmanuel Ribeiro died on 17 June 2021 from pneumonia. Ribeiro died at St. Anne's Hospital in Harare.[17] He was declared a national hero.[18] Constantino Chiwenga said Fr Ribeiro had a premonition of his death after he told those who came to see him in hospital that his days were numbered.

Chiwenga said this on 21 June 2021 at St Mary’s Queen of Peace Highfield parish where he addressed mourners attending a mass for Father Ribeiro. Chiwenga said:

"I am pleased to say I saw him during his last days in hospital saying he will not be able to come out alive and I said you can’t say this Father, but he said that was the situation. So I bade him goodbye. He even directed people where he had left his laptop and other literature saying it would help in putting up the history of this country together that he was writing about."


Father Ribeiro was buried at the National Heroes Acre on 21 June 2021 and became the first priest to be buried at the shrine.[19]


  1. https://www.manicapost.co.zw/father-ribeiro-calls-for-national-unity/
  2. https://www.manicapost.co.zw/father-ribeiro-calls-for-national-unity/
  3. Ministry of Information, Publicity & Broadcasting, Twitter, Published: December 3, 2021, Retrieved: December 3, 2021
  4. https://www.sundaymail.co.zw/president-mugabes-untold-story-priest-relates-the-facts
  5. https://www.herald.co.zw/fr-ribeiros-remarkable-golden-jubilee/
  6. https://www.herald.co.zw/fr-ribeiro-opens-up-on-presidents-prison-stay/
  7. https://www.thezimbabwean.co/2014/07/musician-celebrates-50-years-as/
  8. https://www.manicapost.co.zw/father-ribeiro-calls-for-national-unity/
  9. https://www.sundaymail.co.zw/president-mugabes-untold-story-priest-relates-the-facts
  10. https://www.herald.co.zw/religious-leaders-join-sanctions-removal-call/
  11. https://www.herald.co.zw/priest-gets-second-novel-published/
  12. https://www.herald.co.zw/fr-ribeiros-remarkable-golden-jubilee/
  13. https://www.herald.co.zw/priest-gets-second-novel-published/
  14. https://www.herald.co.zw/fr-ribeiros-remarkable-golden-jubilee/
  15. https://www.herald.co.zw/fr-ribeiros-remarkable-golden-jubilee/
  16. https://www.sundaymail.co.zw/president-mugabes-untold-story-priest-relates-the-facts
  17. Fungi Kwaramba, Father Ribeiro buried, The Herald, Published: June 21, 2021, Retrieved: June 22, 2021
  18. ZBC News Online, Twitter, Published: June 18, 2021, Retrieved: June 19, 2021
  19. 19.0 19.1 Zvamaida Murwira, Father Ribeiro foresaw his death, The Herald, Published: June 22, 2021, Retrieved: June 22, 2021

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