President Peter Mutharika and vice president Saulos Chilima have led tributes to Bishop Joseph Mukasa Zuza of Mzuzu Diocese of the influential Catholic Church, who died in a car crash on Thursday at the age of 59.
Mutharika called Bishop Zuza “one of the finest sons of the nation”, while Chilima a devout Catholic said he had “complete integrity in all he did”.
Zuza was praised by former president Bakili Muluzi as a “thoroughly inspiring church leader” whose death left a “huge hole” in the faith community.
According to the communications secretary Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) which Zuza chaired, Fr. Andrew Kaufa, the bishop was driving himself along the Chikangawa-Nthungwa road, returning to Mzuzu, and his car rolled several times.
He was rushed to the hospital in Mzuzu, where he died.
State House press officer Chikondi Juma said in a statement that President Mutharika learnt with “deep shock” at the untimely death of Zuza.
“The President joins all Malawians in expressing condolences and great sympathy to the family, the Catholic Church and the greater Malawi on the loss of a patriotic and development conscious church leader who was a partner of Government. The President is greatly saddened by this loss and joins all Malawians in mourning the passing of one the finest sons of the nation,” reads a statement from State House.
Mutharika assured that his Government will “stand shoulder to shoulder” with the Catholic Church and all Malawians during “this difficult moment for our country. “
In comments made by Vice President Chilima through his press officer Pilirani Phiri, he hailed Zuza as an ecumenical giant who contributed so much to the Catholic Church.
“I am very shocked and devastated [with the untimely death of Zuza]. I worked very closely with him as we arranged the Amecea 2014 plenary,” said Chilima.
“A great loss to the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, a difficult period for Mzuzu Diocese and a dark moment for Malawi,” he added.
Bishop Zuza was born in 1955 in Malembo, and in 1982 was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Mzuzu. St. John Paul II appointed him Bishop of Mzuzu in 1995.
As head of the Catholic bishops conference in Malawi, Bishop Zuza was well known for speaking out for justice and upliftment of the marginalized, slamming the roots of the socio-economic problems of Malawi, which had attracted criticism from political corners.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :