Death of Merfyn Temple at 92

Retired Methodist minister was first white man to join Zambia’s United National Independence Party and was jailed at the age of 86 for publicly criticising dictator Robert Mugabe.

A Honiton man, who was jailed at the age of 86 for daring to criticise dictator Robert Mugabe, has died.

Tributes have been paid to retired Methodist minister Merfyn Temple, described as an inspirational member of the community and someone who was never afraid to stand up for what he believed in.

Reverend Temple died in his sleep at Abbeyfield’s Hill House care home, Combe Raleigh, near Honiton on Thursday, January 12, following a stroke.

He was 92.


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During his life, Mr Temple demonstrated a passion for issues of fairness and justice, and played a significant role as a missionary in Zambia for 30 years.

He completed an epic cycle across Africa and was featured in a 1950s film about his work in Zambia, where he was affectionately known as Muluti Tempulu.

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Two years ago, Mr Temple published the first volume of his life story, Zambia Stole My Heart.

At the time, he told the Midweek Herald how he became the first white man to join the United National Independence Party.

He did so after being handed a note, which accused missionaries of being in cahoots with the Zambian government.

The letter claimed “Bible grease” was being used to keep Zambians “soft”.

It changed his view of Zambia.

He was an outspoken critic of dictator Robert Mugabe and was jailed by the tyrant in 2005 after he openly criticised his leadership.

Mr Temple was instrumental in the erection of an international peace pole outside of Honiton Baptist Church, where floral tributes have been gathering.

He was also among the first to support the Midweek Herald-backed Joe Gilson Mobility Scheme, donating his mobility scooter when he moved to Abbeyfield in High Street.

Mr Temple was the first vice chairman of the Senior Council for Honiton, whose members are saddened by the news of his death.

Tony Simpson and Tony Smith, speaking on behalf of the senior council, said: “Merfyn was a distinguished member of the senior council offering us his considerable experience and wise counsel whenever needed.

“He believed in the dignity and worth of each member, but also believed we gained strength from working together for the common good.

“He was passionate about issues of fairness and justice for older people and for our community.

“He was not afraid to stand up and be counted for what he believed.”

They added: “We shall always remember his smile and positive manner.

“We shall greatly miss Merfyn, but we are inspired by his contribution and presence among us.”

Before his death, Mr Temple was penning the second volume of his autobiography.

He was a devoted husband to the late Audrey and a loving father and grandfather.

Two thanksgiving services are to be held in his honour, in Honiton and London.

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