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In an emotional tribute, Graça Machel on Monday bid a sad farewell to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, thanking him for his undying service to SA.
“I mourn the loss of a brother, my loyal friend and my spiritual leader. Arch is the last of an extraordinarily outstanding generation of leaders that Africa birthed and gifted to the world,” she said.
Tutu, 90, died on Sunday at a frail-care centre in Cape Town. He had pancreatic cancer.
Machel said she could recall a time when the struggle against apartheid was epitomised by the faces and voices of three giants: the exiled and revolutionary Oliver Tambo, the imprisoned yet omnipresent symbol of resistance that was Nelson Mandela, and Desmond Tutu, the leader from inside SA whose messages were too penetrating to be ignored and whose voice too powerful to be silenced.
“From the pulpit, skilfully wielding his moral authority, Arch passionately condemned apartheid and eloquently pressed for sanctions against the racist regime.
Fighting for freedom from the trenches of SA required a courage that cannot be described. Day by day, minute by minute, every step he took he was shaping the course of history
“In a style unique unto himself, he masterfully used his position as a cleric to mobilise South Africans, Africans and the global community against the brutalities and immorality of the apartheid government.
“Fighting for freedom from the trenches of SA required a courage that cannot be described. Day by day, minute by minute, every step he took he was shaping the course of history. Every sentence he spoke impacted the lives of millions, and both unified and empowered those in the noble struggle against apartheid,” said Machel.
Mandela’s wife said despite the momentous weight Tutu shouldered, he stood resolute and fearless.
“His voice of reason reverberated throughout the transition to democracy.”
Machel said from the unspeakable horrors of apartheid came a desperate need to initiate a process for accountability and healing.
“When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established, it required someone steeped in faith, morality, impartiality, integrity and a boundless capacity for empathy to steer its momentous course.
“The decision to have Tutu steward such a crucial building block of SA’s democracy was one master stroke.”
Machel said while the reconciliation process was unfinished, and some had misgivings about the efficacy of the TRC, she hoped the youth of today, who had not experienced the brutalities of apartheid, would understand the historic challenges Tutu and his generation faced.
“Many, like Arch, walked the tightrope, negotiating ways and means to save lives and avert war, recognising the pain and suffering of victims, and simultaneously trying to hold to account the guilty and bring about healing to countless millions.
“Arch was guided through the minefields of nation-building by his deep commitment to justice and respect for human rights and human dignity. Arch created a moral space to confront both the oppressors and the victims, and recognised freedom had to be enjoyed alongside the respect for human rights.
“From the time of apartheid until the end of his life, Arch’s leadership in the pursuit of justice has been unparalleled.”
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.