Obituary – Raymond Kapito

In the early hours of Monday, April 10, Raymond Kapito, a Jesuit priest, finally succumbed to ill health. He died ‘with his boots on,’ as Fr Fidelis Mukonori said in his sermon, having just agreed to yet another posting, at the age of 78, to Mazowe where he was involved in the spiritu

al formation of future priests. Fr Kapito was mourned – celebrated might be a better word – by so many people during an all night pungwe and the funeral the next day that it is worth writing a word about him for a wider readership.

‘He was a typical African,’ Fr Fidelia told us meaning the exact opposite of what that phrase has often meant. In its pejorative form it conjures up backwardness, inefficiency, casualness and incompetence. But Fidelis was referring to his being rooted in his strong traditional rural background in Mutoko and his confident ability to build other values he learnt in life from many sources onto this foundation.

A dominant influence grafted onto these roots was the rigorous formation of the Catholic seminary in the 1940s. Raymond’s formal education did not consist of degrees and doctorates but he grew into a rock-like assurance of who he was as an African Christian with a mission. The stories over these days of celebration all point to a man of solid principles, which he lived and transmitted to others tirelessly. ‘He never judged anyone,’ we were told and this means that individuals in our country – even the highest in the land – were not condemned as people. But he was straightforward and even ruthless about ways of behaving that were eating into the core of society. His grandmother once confronted a lion and chased it from their homestead. Raymond too would confront other lions in his long life and send them running.

Countless people, but especially priests in training, came under his relentless announcing of the values of life: honesty, integrity, openness and forgiveness. He would prance about the place entertaining people – a laugh a minute – but the message steadily seeped in. ‘A typical African!’ Is that a fact or a wish? To be ‘typical’ means there must be lots of that type. Regrettably, Fr Kapito was somewhat unique. Men or women like him are not peopling this land today. So the phrase means he represented the best in a solid and rich tradition. May his influence live on after him and produce more like him in the new society struggling to be born!

Post published in: Opinions

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