Priest starts black Catholics movement

Mvuyo Mati and Dudu Busani

Mvuyo Mati and Dudu Busani

Controversial suspended Cape Town Roman Catholic priest Fano Ngcobo is once again the talk of the town.

The feisty priest is now leading a breakaway group of black Catholics to form a Diocesan Black Catholics Movement.

Ngcobo, 35, who was suspended from his parish last year after clashing with what he called the "white racist leadership", said black Catholics were mobilising themselves.

"We still respect ourselves as who we are and want to state loudly that no institution can take our dignity away from us," he said.

Ngcobo, originally from Lamontville township in Durban, joined the Cape Town Diocese in 2003 as its first black priest.

He made headlines late last year when he publicly stated that being a priest did not mean he couldn't enjoy life. He also said the Cape Town arch-diocese was made up of racist white people who were trying to alienate him.

Ngcobo was accused by diocese officials of abandoning his church house and renting a townhouse, being too close to women within the church and jolling at nightclubs and shopping malls.

In reply Ngcobo said: "I grew up in a township so obviously I'm a people's person. Being a priest does not mean I must stop living."

Ngcobo was finally suspended from his position as an ordained priest of the church. His suspension stemmed from his refusal to relocate from St Anthony's Catholic Church in Langa to a parish in Khayelitsha, and accusations that his behaviour was against the church's moral beliefs.

The feud between Ngcobo and the arch-diocese came to a head when he led a public protest against the church.

Ngcobo told Sowetan yesterday that the demonstration had been held to highlight the racist behaviour of the white church leadership towards black Catholics in Langa.

In response to the picket, Ngcobo was taken to court on December 8 when the arch-diocese filed an application in the Cape Town high court to prevent him from entering the premises of the Catholic church in Langa, participating in any form of demonstration targeted at Archbishop Lawrence Henry or entering church property in his diocese. It also demanded that he hand over a car belonging to the church and that he pay the cost of the application.

On Wednesday Ngcobo lost the case with costs.

Commenting after the ruling Ngcobo said: "The irony is that everybody knows I'm 100percent dependent on the church for my welfare."

He charged that he had been taken to court because the arch-diocese wanted to muzzle him as a black priest and leader of his community.

Ngcobo said black Catholics had taken care of him during the hearing through fund raising.

Despite losing to his church leadership, Ngcobo said he regarded the ruling as an important victory for black Catholics.

"We might have lost in court, but we see it [the ruling] as a victory because this is enabling us to stand up and tell our story without fear of being intimidated by any structure."

He said the entire church in Cape Town would benefit from his new Black Catholics movement.