Desmond and Leah Tutu, seen at his 90th birthday in October. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Desmond and Leah Tutu, seen at his 90th birthday in October. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been laid to rest at an Anglican parish in Cape Town, a final wish for the man described as a South African moral compass, spiritual leader and a big brother for political and religious leaders who attended his funeral on Saturday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa hailed Tutu’s role in seeking to heal division in the new “rainbow nation” — a term he had coined as he chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to unearth the atrocities committed under apartheid in SA. Ramaphosa delivered the eulogy at the end of the funeral for the archbishop who died, aged 90, on December 26.

“While our beloved Madiba [Mandela] was the father of our democracy, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the spiritual father of our new nation,” Ramaphosa said.

In keeping with his wishes for a ceremony without any big government spend, Tutu’s body lay in a plain pine coffin during the service at St George’s Cathedral, once a place of sanctuary in the 1980s for activists fighting against the racist, apartheid government. 

Though it was a state funeral, Tutu requested that the role of the SA National DefenseForce be limited to his wife Leah receiving the flag which lay over his body.  

Though the sun emerged just as Tutu’s funeral ended, it had been raining earlier in the day with howling winds as guests, including former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe,  King Letsie III of Lesotho and billionaire Patrice Motsepe, were ushered in. 

Tutu, one of the world’s most respected spiritual, religious, anti-apartheid and human rights leaders, was also a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. A representative of the Dalai Lama, Ngodup Dorjee, paid tribute to Tutu.

“His Holiness the Dalai Lama was not able to come here because of the global pandemic and his age. He wanted to come very much but could not because of the Covid-19 restrictions all over the world,” Dorjee said.

Ramaphosa said Tutu’s death “is another chapter of bereavement in our nation’s farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated SA.”

“From the pavements of resistance in SA to the pulpits of the world’s great cathedrals and places of worship, and the prestigious setting of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Arch distinguished himself as a nonsectarian, inclusive champion of universal human rights.” Ramaphosa said.

LISTEN | 'A crusader in the struggle for freedom, for justice, for equality and for peace' — Ramaphosa pays tribute to Tutu

Those mourning Tutu’s death told Business Day that the onus is on each and every one he has touched to carry the torch.

“I want us all to write a pledge of how we will honour Tutu by bringing out the good in ourselves,” said Graça Machel, the widow of the late President Mandela. “We need to go back and check if we have lived up to our own pledge every week, that is how we keep Tutu alive. He lives in all of us.”  .

Public works minister Patricia de Lille said the sad reality was that 27 years into democracy in SA only a few had tasted economic liberation.

The majority are still oppressed; they have suffered the indignity of apartheid. What we need to see from this outpouring for the Arch from the minority is action in terms of what more can they do. Reconciliation cannot just be from the one side,” De Lille said.  

Members of the Tutu family, the clergy and various dignitaries attended the funeral of the late Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on January 1 2022.

Tutu died peacefully at the Oasis Care Centre in Cape Town. He had been hospitalised several times since 2015 after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997.

SA’s national flag has flown at half-mast since Monday, while the Cape Town City Hall and Table Mountain have been illuminated in purple — the colour of Tutu’s gown.

Since Monday, the bells of St George’s Cathedral have tolled for 10 minutes at noon to start what the church hopes will be a moment of reflection on Tutu’s deeds. Religious services are being held around SA in his honour.

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