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When religion and culture collided: killed for for choosing baptism

RUSSEL MOLEFE
MANCHE Masemola may have predicted that she would be “baptised” in her own blood. The 15-yearold teenager of Ga-Marishane, Limpopo, was killed and buried by her parents.
It’s a sad story that remains relatively unknown in many parts of the country, even in her home province which still depicts the stark realities of complexities of religion and culture.
Together with her parents, two elder brothers, a sister and cousin, Masemola was part of a family that enjoyed village life embedded in traditional religion. The family life was thrown into disarray when she decided to be baptised at an Anglican church established in the village by Father Augustine Moeka.
She remained defiant of her parents that she continued attending Christian classes. All efforts to dissuade her, including hiding her clothes and consultation with traditional healers, failed.
It was on 4 February 1928 that her parents led her to a lonely place outside the village and killed her, probably fulfilling her prediction that she will be baptised in her own blood. They buried her under a rock.
Her mother was baptised in 1969. Masemola was canonised as a saint of the Anglican Church in 1975 and her statue was erected in Westminster, London, in 1998 whilst the Limpopo provincial government built a monument in her village.
It’s a story that was retold by Limpopo Sports and Arts MEC Onnica Moloi at the provincial legislature last Thursday, indicating how religion and culture once clashed but can be enjoyed today without an element of mistrust.
“The story of this martyr of faith and the ironic story of her mother, who after killing her daughter for her faith, was herself baptised 41 years later after converting to Christianity, reveals the complexities of religion and culture.
“The liberation struggle story of Limpopo will never be complete without a mention of our traditional leaders. Our Kings and Queens who fought wars of resistance were central to our liberation struggle,” Moloi said.
Moloi believes that the rich heritage and cultural diversity places the province on a path to become a cultural tourism hub.
“With its rich heritage, its unique wildlife experience and its native flora, it is therefore not surprising that Limpopo was announced as the most visited tourist destination for the second year by Statistics South Africa in its Domestic Tourism Survey,” she said.
This year’s Heritage Month is being celebrated under the theme “The year of OR Tambo: Celebrating our liberation heritage”. National Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa believes the theme contributes to the revival of the political and social-cultural consciousness across the country on the liberation struggle narrative.
At the launch of the Heritage Month in Cape Town last week, he said: “It invokes an expanded discussions on issues related to decolonisation and black consciousness, democracy and economic transformation. The theme also reminds us to assert our shared identity as Africans and embrace each other’s culture and heritage.”

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