Desmond Tutu buried at South African state funeral

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — The funeral began at 10 a.m. under a thick blanket of cloud and drizzle, as mourners dressed in black entered the cathedral and walked past the simple wooden casket of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. One by one, the speakers took to the pulpit in St. George’s, where the little clergyman has spent decades preaching against the racial injustice of the apartheid government of South Africa. By noon, as the choir concluded with “Here is our High Priest,” sunlight had passed through the fog, shimmering through the stained glass windows and revealing this city’s iconic Table Mountain.

It was a weather metaphor that would have delighted Mr. Tutu, the charismatic cleric who won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his global campaign to end the country’s racist policies and is credited with coining the term “Rainbow Nation “to describe the optimism of the South Africa’s transition to a multiracial democracy.

Mr Tutu, who died on December 26 at the age of 90, later became a moral compass for a nation struggling to overcome the political ravages and social inequalities of the post-apartheid era.

The archbishop, known for his role in ending apartheid in South Africa, died on December 26, 2021 following a more than two-decade battle with cancer. Photo: Getty Images

Hundreds of mourners had gathered for days before Saturday’s service at St. George’s, the oldest Anglican church in southern Africa, which Mr. Tutu mobilized into a refuge for resistance against the regime in the a white minority in the 1980s. The number of people in the cathedral – which included Mr. Tutu’s widow, Leah, and four children – was limited to 100 due to Covid-19 regulations.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, a former union leader and anti-apartheid activist, delivered the eulogy, saying Mr. Tutu’s message of peaceful coexistence was as vital to the country’s future as it was to the tumultuous transition to peace. democracy, when it helped prevent massive bloodshed.

“He never stopped fighting, he never stopped talking, he never stopped caring,” Mr. Ramaphosa said.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Saturday that Archbishop Desmond Tutu “has never stopped fighting”.


Jaco Marais, press pool

The death of Mr. Tutu, who also played a crucial post-apartheid role as head of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, marks the passing of the last of South Africa’s main anti-apartheid leaders. It comes as Africa’s most developed economy faces growing challenges: a weakening economy hit by repeated waves of Covid-19, ongoing racial tensions and infighting within the ruling African National Congress. , formerly headed by Nelson Mandela.

Almost 30 years after the collapse of the white minority regime, nearly two-thirds of black South Africans, who make up about 80% of the country’s population, live in poverty, according to the national statistics office.

In recent years, Mr. Tutu has repeatedly criticized the ANC, in power since 1994, for mismanagement and corruption, joining national protests in 2017 against former President Jacob Zuma. Mr Zuma, who was replaced by Mr Ramaphosa in 2018, was jailed for refusing to attend a corruption investigation during his presidency.

“Problems and challenges are everywhere,” Mr. Ramaphosa said in the eulogy. “Poverty, inequality, racism, homophobia, gender-based violence, crime and corruption have left many people disillusioned. ”

Frank Chikane, a veteran ANC figure and clergyman, said the archbishop’s death was a moment to take stock of the failures of post-apartheid politics in South Africa.

“As we celebrate his life, we need to remember that where we are is not where we thought we would be when we fight for our release,” he said.

This view was echoed by the small crowds gathered at Grand Parade – where Mr. Tutu stood with Mr. Mandela in 1990 during his friend’s first speech after 27 years in prison – to watch the service on Grand screen.

Mourners watched Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s funeral on a giant screen in Cape Town on Saturday.


gianluigi guercia / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

“He was a man who brought us together,” said Nolene Thomas, a 43-year-old unemployed woman from the outskirts of town. “I think we need to pause, think, and hear his message again. So it doesn’t fade.

Known affectionately to South Africans as “The Ark”, Mr. Tutu had called for a funeral ceremony without excessive expense. The only flowers in the cathedral were a bouquet of carnations from her family. Supporters from across South Africa walked past his unvarnished wooden casket, which has been lying in state in St. George’s since Thursday. A local priest said public access to the coffin should be extended, “lest there be a stampede.”

The low-key funeral took place after a week of national mourning. Church bells rang at noon across the country each day and flags flew at half mast. The Archbishop’s beloved national cricket team wore black armbands in the first test match against India. Table Mountain was illuminated in purple – the color of the Archbishop’s clothing – in his honor.

South African analyst Lukhanyo Vangqa tweeted that symbolism and the simplicity of Mr. Tutu’s coffin was a “powerful rebuke” to the ruling ANC and its “emerging culture of opulence and decadence”.

Mr Ramaphosa won the election last year on a pledge to end government corruption, but is now fighting what he calls “a choreographed campaign” by rival ANC factions.

Senior party officials who back Zuma openly question the president’s economic agenda, which focuses on attracting foreign investment after five years of declining gross domestic product per capita. Some support populist economic policies, such as using the central bank to finance infrastructure projects.

Unlike emerging markets which have used the past decade to reduce inequality and expand their middle classes, South Africa has entered the pandemic from a position of weakness that has been exacerbated by lockdowns and travel bans. .

In Cape Town on Sunday, residents said Mr Tutu’s message was needed more than ever. In retirement, he continued to campaign for social justice, broadening his efforts to include HIV / AIDS, LGBT rights and climate change, again challenging the church and political authorities even as he battled against the Cancer.

“He was very humble, he did what he did for the country… For the guys now it’s all about power,” said Celiwe Tsele, a 41-year-old bank worker who came to pay him homage.

After the service, Mr. Tutu’s ashes will be interred behind the pulpit at St. George’s. Her daughter said the outpouring of love for her father had “warmed the shells of our hearts.”

“Because we have shared him with the world, you share with us some of the love you have for him,” she said.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Leah Tutu, widow of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, were among 100 people who attended his funeral on Saturday.


jaco marais, press pool

Write to Joe Parkinson at [email protected]

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