Michael Traber was a Roman Catholic priest who served as director of the press at Mambo Press before he was deported by the Rhodesian government. He also directed the first two Shona films in Rhodesia.
Traber was born in Switzerland in 1929.
He studied journalism at Fordham University and obtained a doctorate from New York University.
Ordained a priest in 1956 after some time on mission in Asia he was sent to Rhodesia. He came to Rhodesia in 1961 and was in charge of Mambo Press from 1962 until the time he was deported in 1970. During this period the circulation of Moto Magazine rose from 7000 to 35000. In Gweru he was the chaplain to the students of Fletcher High School and Gweru Teachers' College. He was also parish priest at St Mary's Senga. Father Traber directed the first two full length Shona feature films in Rhodesia namely Mbiri YaBaba (1965) and Vatete Vangu (1968). Mbiri yaBaba was on priesthood while Vatete Vangu unfolds the story of a vocation to the sisterhood.
After his deportation he returned to Africa as lecturer in journalism at the Africa Literature Centre. He also conducted media research in Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
The priest is known for his ecumenical initiatives. In 1976, he joined the staff of the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC). Appreciating his contributions WACC honoured the Catholic priest with an Honorary Life Membership. He was a member of a missionary society called Bethlehem Mission and is known in India as a professor at the Protestant-run United Theological College, where he taught hundreds of catholic priests.
Trial And Deportation
Father Traber faced charges under Section 44 of the Law and Order (Maintenance Act) of either publishing a subversive statement or "engendering feelings of hostility to any group...on account of race, religion or colour." He faced the charges after a cartoon appeared in a special issue of Moto on June 10, 1969 during the referundum campaign. The cartoon depicted a pair of white hands crushing together a host of some African bodies. Under the cartoon a caption quoted the Rhodesian Front's white paper "The proposed new constitution will ensure that government will be retained in responsible hands..."
The prosecution alleged that besides crushing some African bodies the white hands were squeezing blood out of the black bodies.
Traber got a suspended sentence of six months hard labour. He appealed against the sentence and won on 6 March 1970. Despite his acquittal he was deported from Rhodesia.
He died in Switzerland on March 25, 2006 following cancer related complications. He was 77.