Desmond Tutu: South Africa starts week of mourning for anti-apartheid icon

South Africa has started a week of events in honour of anti-apartheid veteran Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who died peacefully in a Cape Town nursing home on Sunday at the age of 90.

His body will lie in state for two days before his funeral is held on 1 January at Cape Town’s St George’s Cathedral, where the bells will toll for 10 minutes each day at noon until Friday to mark Mr Tutu’s life.

Mourners have been laying flowers to honour Tutu, who had preached against the tyranny of the white minority and was revered as his nation’s moral compass by those both those Black and white, while tributes to him have poured in from across the world.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said flags would be flown at half-mast nationwide and at South African diplomatic missions abroad until the night before Archbishop Tutu’s funeral service.

“In the days, to come we will mourn this global icon of peace and freedom,” he said in a national address late on Sunday.

“We will recount his achievements, we will recall his teachings and we will cherish fond memories of this man who always tempered criticism with compassion.”

Cape Town’s city hall, Arch for Arch – a monument commemorating Tutu – and the iconic Table Mountain, were illuminated in purple on Sunday, a nod to the robes Mr Tutu often donned.

A long-time friend of Nelson Mandela, ArchbishopTutu won the Nobel prize in 1984 in recognition of his non-violent opposition to white minority rule. A decade later, he witnessed the end of that regime and chaired a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to unearth the atrocities committed under it.

Mr Tutu later called the Black political elite to account with as much feistiness as he had the Afrikaners, but his enduring spirit of reconciliation always shone through and he never stopped fighting for a “Rainbow Nation”. He also used his profile to campaign against corruption, poverty, xenophobia, homophobia, and raise awareness of HIV and Aids.

The Diocese of Pretoria and the South African Council of Churches will hold a memorial service in the capital city on Wednesday.

On Thursday evening, the Archbishop of Tutu IP Trust and Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation will host an “intimate evening” with friends of the Tutus.

Former US President Barack Obama, UK’s Queen Elizabeth and the Dalai Lama were among the many high-profile figures from around the world to pay tribute to Archbishop Tutu following his death.

Mr Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997 and repeatedly underwent treatment. He increasingly withdrew from public life and spent more time with his family in recent years. In one of his last public appearances this year, he visited a hospital in a wheelchair to get a Covid vaccine.

The Archbishop had been ill for several months and died peacefully at 7am (0500 GMT) on Sunday, according to his relatives


Douglas Mateo

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