- Peter Prestage: missionary, police captain, founder -
History of Father Peter Prestage: missionary to Matebele
Father (Fr.) Peter Prestage, born and educated in London England, he joined missionary work of the Jesuits in Africa, working first in South Africa then Zimbabwe. He witnessed the Ndebele raid on Victoria (Masvingo) on the 9th of July 1893, and had a special interest in the fall of the Ndebele State because of the failure of the Jesuits to make the converts among the Ndebele, due to its system of government. He died at Empandeni, Matebeleland Zimbabwe.   
Fr. Peter Prestage was born in London in 1842 and at the age of Seven was sent to Mount St. Mary's College in 1849. Two years later he went to the College at Liege in 1851 and was later transferred to Stonyhurst College in 1853. His calling to the ministry of God was displayed in some of his traits at an early age.
On finishing rhetoric in 1860, he took his steps towards missionary work when he entered the Noviceship of the Society of Jesus at Beaumont. From 1863 to 1866 he went through the usual course in philosophy at St. Mary's Hall Seminary. He cemented his missionary training when he began his theological studies at St. Bueno's College in 1873, he was finally ordained a priest in 1875. A year later began his Tertianship at Tronchiennes in 1876. 
He decided to answer God's call for Africa, he traveled to South Africa in 1877 and taught for five years at St. Aidan's College in Grahamstown. He left St. Aidan's in 1882 after his Superiors had ordered him to join the staff of the Zambezi Mission. He was stationed at Tati for 18 months and moved to Bulawayo at the beginning of 1884. After labouring in Matabeleland for over two years, he made a short visit to Cape Colony (South Africa) in December, 1886.
At the beginning of 1887 he made all the necessary arrangements with his Superiors and returned to Matabeleland in June, 1887 and resumed his missionary labours. 'With characteristic patience and perseverance he stuck to his ...task, until towards the end of 1889, the restlessness of the Matabele, and the political developments then in preparation, made it advisable for Europeans to leave the country for a time'. At Mafeking he was appointed chaplain to the police, with the rank of honorary captain. Acting under orders from Sir Frederick Carrington, he proceeded to Macloutsie with a party of nursing sisters. 
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He arrived at Salisbury (now Harare) in July 1891 to assist in the establishment of Chishawasha mission. In April 1892 five Dominican Sisters from King William's town accompanied by the Superior of the Zambezi Mission, Father Henry Schomberg Kerr, arrived to open the Chishawasha mission. On the 31st July 1892 Chishawasha mission was founded. Father Kerr arrived from Salisbury (Harare) and dedicated the cross on the hill in the centre of the plain. The site for the farm was selected by Father Prestage.  
He personally felt that colonization of Zimbabwe was necessary in order for Christianity to make meaningful strides in the land of the Matabele, or to put it more precisely, he felt the Ndebele system of government must be overthrown to pave the way for Christianity. On the 29th of May 1883, he wrote, "Until the Matabeles are put down by brute force.....they will never improve" On the 23rd December 1891, Father Prestage wrote the following to Father Kerr, "Our failure at Empandeni was not owing to the unwillingness of the natives to learn and even become Christians, but it was due to the overwhelming terror, engendered by the pagan system of government....Any native relinquishing the ways of his forefathers, considers that he is branded like a traitor - that he is a marked man, and doomed to be knocked on the head as the cause of ill, should any misfortune attend to his family or the town where is residing. This is the barrier to the missionary enterprise in Matabeleland. I foresaw it, before I went Empandeni; but I always hoped that some some would have the grace to break it down. There I was mistaken, and the absence of this supernatural courage in the people rendered it useless to stop in the country, after  its absence had been made sufficiently manifest "
In  1893, July 9 to be more precise, in the wake of the Ndebele raid on Victoria (now Masvingo) Fr. Prestage urged the dismantling of the Ndebele Kingdom. Referring to the Ndebele raid on Victoria, he commented "I trust the Matabele Kingdom will be smashed up. It was founded upon a basis of injustice - a powerful military organization set in motion for the self-aggrandizement of the king and his advisers at the expense of the denial and violation of the natural to his subjects and his tributaries, who were deprived of security of life, security of property and the sanctity of the family. The Matabele system of government was a system of iniquity and deviltry..." When asked by Sir Leander Starr Jameson if the clergy would approve the chastisement of the Ndebele, Prestage told him that there was just cause for the British South Africa Company taking up arms against the Ndebele in defense of the Shona who had been "unjustly and grievously wronged". When Jameson asked him to Telegram his views to Cecil John Rhodes, Prestage gladly and promptly obliged. He said Jameson was "delighted at my readiness to back him up. In his humor he said he was glad that the Church gave her blessing to the contemplated punishment". Prestage commented, "This is the only satisfactory solution of the matter, which secures the life and property to whites and blacks in  Mashonaland" 
On the 2nd of August 1893, Father Prestage wrote, "we must put down the Matabeles and then go on with our work as if nothing has happened" In another letter on the same day he wrote, "Victoria was pretty quiet. Probably forces will enter Matabeleland from Tuli, Victoria and Salisbury, and smash up Lobengula's infamous rule. The sooner the better." 
In 1894 the Ndebele kingdom was overthrown with the downfall of Lobengula. In 1896 he returned to Empandeni Mission, where he stayed until he died on 6th April, 1907.
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