“We are emotionally drained”: South African Archbishop after Missing Priest Found Dead

By Sheila Pires- South Africa

This article is being re-published here after being published on ACI Africa on the 3rd July 2022

The Catholic Archbishop of Durban in South Africa is seeking spiritual solidarity after his Priest, Fr. Bheki Monamoholo Motloung, who was reported missing since Pentecost Sunday, June 5 was found dead.

In a Saturday, July 2 statement shared with ACI Africa, Archbishop Siegfried Mandla Jwara says the body of the 55-year-old Catholic Priest was retrieved from Bergville dam.

“Last night the divers recovered the body of Fr. Bheki floating in the dam,” Archbishop Jwara says, adding that he had commissioned the Chaplain of the South African Police Service (SAPS) for Durban Archdiocese, Fr. David Sithole, “to drive up there at night for the body identification,”

In the statement addressed to Bishops in South Africa, the Local Ordinary of Durban Archdiocese adds, “The body is already in Ladysmith mortuary. The identification was positive. According to Fr. David the body is terribly swollen and that is why it started floating after sunset.”

Archbishop Jwara says that details for the funeral of late Fr. Motloung who served as Priest for 22 years will be announced once the Police releases the body.

The member of the Congregation of Mariannhill Missionaries (CMM) expresses gratitude to the investigative team and thanks the faithful for their prayers through the intercession of St Anthony of Padua, patron saint of the recovery of lost items.

“I thank you all for your support. We need your prayers as we are emotionally drained. I thank the police who worked very hard for the past four weeks. Thanks to St. Anthony,” the 65-year-old Archbishop who has been at the helm Durban Archdiocese since August 2021 says.

In a June 15 interview with ACI Africa, the SAPS Chaplain for Durban Archdiocese said that Fr. Motloung who was serving as Parish Priest of St. Yves Catholic Church, Bergville, “went missing on Pentecost Sunday after attending a Minister’s Fraternity at the Lutheran Church in KwaDukuza.”

Fr. Sithole added in reference to his missing colleague, Fr. Motloung, “He was the first to leave that night after dinner.”

In a July 2 statement after he had positively identified the body of his colleague, Fr. Sithole says, “The search team were successful in retrieving the body and in the pockets were found his wallet and identity document that confirmed that indeed the body was the missing priest of Bergville Parish Rev. Fr. Bheki Motloung.”

“The body was then taken to Ladysmith Mortuary for further investigation and postmortem,” the SAPS Chaplain for Durban Archdiocese further says, and adds, “Upon viewing the body and verification of his identity document, I then contacted the Archbishop and the Vicar General to issue the official statement and publish the death notice.”

According to the South African Catholic Priest, the car and cell phone of his late colleague are yet to be located.

He adds, “The cause of death is still unclear at this stage but our good team of detectives are working very hard and putting endless efforts to have a breakthrough. We still appeal to anyone with information to come forward to assist with the investigation.”

In his July 2 statement, the member of the Clergy of Durban Archdiocese thanks “Members of SAPS search and rescue team for their untiring efforts to find Fr Bheki. Our KZN Provincial Commissioner Major General Mkhwanazi for acting swiftly and prioritizing the matter, we are forever grateful.”

In a July 1 statement, the Local Ordinary of Durban Archdiocese had cautioned against believing unofficial reports, “especially those distributed on social media”, on his missing Priest, Fr. Motloung.

In his July 2 statement following the recovery of the body of his Priest, the South African Archbishop says, “It looks like the messages that he had been found in the dam were spread by a person who possibly knew what had happened and was trying to give us a clue.”