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Christian Aid Ireland is deeply saddened by the death of José Antonio Patrocínio, known to his friends as Zetó, founder and director of our Angolan partner Omunga.

After falling ill, Zetó died in hospital in Benguela on Saturday 1 June, at the age of 56.

Zetó was a passionate and courageous advocate for human rights who dedicated his life to promoting and protecting the rights of Angola’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens. He never flinched from speaking truth to power; and worked tirelessly to build justice, and real peace.

Christian Aid Angola has worked with Zetó and his colleagues at Omunga for over a decade. This work has included efforts to resist illegal home demolitions, inclusion and citizen journalism work with children, a campaign to build houses for former street children, and support for people to apply for official identity documents, so that they can claim their full rights as citizens.

‘I will always be inspired by Zetó’s applied creativity, courage, consistency and kindness,’ says Christian Aid’s Country Manager for Angola, Rosario Advirta. ‘He never let any important event or opportunity pass without speaking out, even in the most difficult circumstances and with heavy personal costs, so that democracy could grow.

Zetó never disempowered people by speaking for them. Instead he stood with them, involving and supporting them to develop their own agency and voice.’

The sudden loss of José Patrocínio has triggered a wave of emotional tributes across Angolan society, including from other Christian Aid partners.

‘Angola has lost a man with noble ideals of social justice and goodness’, the Angolan Council of Churches, CICA, said in a statement. Padre Jacinto Pio Wakussanga, from our partner Chiange-Gambos Network, described him as ‘a true pilgrim of freedom, a pioneer in the struggle for human dignity, without seeing colour, social position, religion or background.’

Zetó was an invaluable ally and dear friend to Christian Aid’s Angola team, and we will greatly miss his warmth, generosity, humour and commitment. We send our deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues at Omunga, and to the many people – especially young people – whose lives he touched and transformed.

Alix Tiernan from Christian Aid Ireland knew Zeto and paid this tribute to him:

“I am so shocked. So quickly can a life be over. And Zeto’s was so full, so meaningful. God has His own plans for us, and I know He has a plan for Zeto, and also a plan for those he left behind - his family but also his ‘second family’, Omunga, the organisation that he was synonymous with, and which we in Christian Aid Ireland have the pleasure of working with. My prayers go out to all of them.”