History Summarized  |  History in Detail 

Men who Served the Mission

Name Arrival in Zim Departure  Additional Info
Robert da Sylva April 1983 January 2000 RIP  September 2006
Paul Horrocks June 1983 November 2003 Now in Lourdes, France
Augustine Makhokolo March 1984 1994  
Colin Mason July 1984 December 1984 Now diocesan priest
Malcolm Barber May 1987 September 1987 RIP Sep 1987
Christopher Richmond June 1989 2001 Parish Priest in Durban, South Africa
Derrick Houston March 1992 1994 Left congregation
Hugh Dalton September 1992 August 2001 RIP June 2003
Alexis Tlali March 1996 April 1996 RIP 2005
Mario Martins March 1996 1998 Left congregation
Sipho Kunene March 2000 February 2006 Superior, Sabon House, Durban, South Africa
Mbheki Ngcobo May 2000 September 2002 Formation Team, Cedara, South Africa
Michael Foley August 2001 - Still in Mission
John Patterson April 2002 - Still in Mission
Zibonelo Ngubane September 2002 April 2004 Parish Priest, Mooi River, South Africa
Eugene Whyte September 2002 July 2005 Lacombe Province, Canada
Claude Lukuba September 2003 - Still in Mission
Lizwelinjani Mlotshwa January 2004 December 2006 Northern Province, South Africa
Siyabonga Dube May 2005 - Still in Mission
Donovan Wheatley August 2005 - Still in Mission
Charles Rensburg January 2006 - Still in Mission
Bafana Ndlovu February 2007 - Still in Mission

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History in Detail             Back to Top

Several Factors contributed to the start of the Oblate Mission in Zimbabwe. During the course of 1981 Fr. P. Hogan, General Councilor for Africa at that time, explored the possibilities of going to Zimbabwe since there had been several requests made by some of the Zimbabwean Bishops for Oblates. 

Finally, the Diocese of Bulawayo (which is in the South of Zimbabwe) was chosen as the first place for the Oblates to work as Bishop Henry Karlen (later made Archbishop) presented the best motivated requests to our General Administration in Rome. In addition, Fr. P. Hogan was told by three Zimbabwean Bishops that Bulawayo was in most need of priests as it had been cruelly ravaged by war, not only the war for independence, but even thereafter during the early 1980s.

The Province of Transvaal (now Northern Province) took up the responsibility for this new Mission and were supported by the Southern African Oblate Region. The Natal Province nonetheless provided some assistance with personnel.

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In April 1983 Fr. Paul Winters (Transvaal Provincial) brought Fr. Robert de Sylva to Bulawayo. The latter remained at the cathedral parish for 3 weeks and then went to the Parish of Our Lady of Lourdes. Fr. Robert da Sylva encountered different circumstances in his urban parish. Prior to the Independence of Zimbabwe in 1980, the parish solely consisted of white (European) parishioners. Within a few years after Independence the character of the parish was transformed. Many black (African) people moved into the area and gradually they formed the dominant group, although they comprised two distinct tribes. He met with the problem of integrating several different groups. After some years he achieved considerable success. Fr. Paul Horrocks arrived in Bulawayo early in June and assisted Fr. de Sylva for a few months.

 On 1 March 1984 Fr. Augustine Makhokolo was installed at St. Luke's Mission and on the 3rd of March Fr. Paul Horrocks was transferred from Our Lady of Lourdes to St. Luke's Mission. Early in July, Fr. Colin Mason, (the 2nd man from Natal) came up to Zimbabwe., but returned in December of that same year. He is presently a diocesan priest in Australia. 

The next Oblate to come to Zimbabwe was Brother Malcolm Barber, in May 1987. He was sent to Regina Mundi Mission where Fr. Paul Horrocks was now stationed. Unfortunately Bro. Malcolm Barber's stay was a very short one as he died of a heart on 7 September 1987. Two years later, in June 1989, Fr. Chris Richmond, came up from Natal and was posted to Regina Mundi as a co-pastor. In January 1992, Fr. Augustine Makhokolo was transferred to a rural Mission in the South and Fr. Chris Richmond went to St. Luke's. In March 1992 Fr. Derrick Houston arrived and was sent as an assistant to Fr. Paul Horrocks at Regina Mundi. 


Fr. Hugh Dalton was the second person who arrived that same year in September 1992. He lived with Fr. Robert De Sylva for about 6 months at Our Lady of Lourdes until the start of the Pre-Novitiate House. In mid-March 1996 two priests Frs. Alexis Tlali  and Mario Martins were sent to Zimbabwe from the Transvaal Province. Fr. Alexis returned to the Transvaal 5 weeks later and Fr. Mario Martins returned two years later. In January 2000, Fr. De Sylva left Zimbabwe to retire in Natal and died on the 19th September 2006.  

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The arrival of Frs. Sipho Kunene in March 2000 and Mbhkei Ngcobo at the end of May of  the same year marked the beginning of a new era. The former was posted to St. Luke's Mission whilst the latter lived at the Pre-Novitiate and was a part-time assistant to Fr. Paul Horrocks at Our lady of Lourdes. In December of that same year, Fr. Chris Richmond returned to the Natal-Province to prepare for further studies. It was then that Fr. Mbheki Ngcobo joined Fr. Sipho Kunene at St. Luke's Mission. Fr. Dalton was again left alone at the Pre-Novitiate until his transfer, in August 2001, to the Novitiate in South Africa where he served until his death in 2003. Fr. Michael Foley came up from the Natal Province on the 16th of August 2001. He was appointed superior of the Zimbabwe Mission and, Pre-Novitiate Director. On the 28th of April 2002 Fr. John Patterson came to the Pre-Novitiate to assist Fr. Foley.

Fr. Eugene Whyte, arrived in September 2002 from St. Peter's Province in Canada. After spending a few months at Mazenod House he joined Fr. Paul Horrocks at Our lady of Lourdes as assistant Parish Priest. He took over as Parish Priest in November 2003, when Fr. Paul Horrocks left for Lourdes in France. Fr. Eugene Whyte returned to Canada at the end of his 3 year contract in July 2005.

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Fr. Mbheki Ngcobo left Zimbabwe in February 2003 and was replaced, by Fr. Zibonelo Ngubane who arrived the same month. Fr. Ngubane did not stay long. He left Zimbabwe in April 2004.

Fr. Claude Lukuba, a priest from the Democratic Republic of Congo, received his first obedience from the General for the Zimbabwe Mission and arrived towards the end of September 2003. Fr. Claude was appointed parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes in July, 2005. 

Fr. Zweli Mhlotshwa from the Northern Province of South Africa, arrived in Zimbabwe as a deacon, in January 2004 and was ordained priest in Soweto on 9 October of the same year. He was assigned co-pastor at St. Luke's, and took over as parish priest there in January 2006 when Fr. Sipho Kunene returned to the Natal Province. He then returned to the Northern Province at the end of December 2006, where he presently works.

Frs. Siyabonga Dube and Donovan Wheatley arrived shortly after their priestly ordination which took place in April and July 2005 respectively. Fr. Siyabonga is assigned to youth ministry and formation work at the Pre-Novitiate and Fr. Donovan Wheatley is assistant priest at Our Lady of Lourdes.

In January 2006, Fr. Charles Rensburg became the first Zimbabwean born Oblate to be ordained priest, and is assigned to the community at St. Luke's Mission.

In February 2007, Fr. Bafana Ndlovu from the Natal Province arrived in the Mission after he ordination to the priesthood. He is assigned to the community at St. Luke's Mission where he Assistant Parish Priest

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Summary                    Back to Top

Beginning with Frs. Robert da Sylva and Paul Horrocks, who arrived within months of each other in 1983, and ending with Fr. Charles Rensburg, newly ordained in January 2006, there have been just over 20 Oblates living and working in Zimbabwe during the past 23 years. There have been 3 Mission Superiors, Robert da Sylva, Hugh Dalton and Michael Foley. The first Mission Council was established in 2005, including Frs. Claude Lukuba, Zweli Mlotshwa and Siyabonga Dube. Fr. Donovan Wheatley was appointed Mission Treasurer in 2005.

Although some efforts were made earlier, it was with the purchase of Mazenod House in1992, that the formation of Zimbabweans began in earnest. These efforts have born fruit and the future is promising.  


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Last updated February 2007.