South Africa mourns Desmond Tutu

Status: December 30, 2021 5:30 p.m.

Some mourn quietly, some sing and dance in his honor: throughout South Africa, people commemorate the deceased Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu. His body was laid out in public in Cape Town.

By Karin Wehrheim, ARD-Studio Johannesburg

The line of mourners for Desmond tutu in front of St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town is long. Books of condolence are displayed in front of the portals, access is strictly limited due to Corona. The simple pine coffin had driven through the city center at walking pace and carried into the cathedral by Anglican priests.

Tutu’s widow Leah, the four children and their partners belonged to the first moments. The current Archbishop, Thabo Makgoba said afterwards:

Then we opened the coffin, we prayed and sang Tutu’s favorite chorus: ‘Just as I am, God loves me’. Then we were in silence for a long time, because Archbishop Desmond was a man of prayer, he loved silence and sometimes withdrew in silence for a day, a week or a month. As a family and as a Church, we have kept quiet in his honor.

Desmond Tutu’s coffin stands in front of the high altar, adorned only with a single bouquet of carnations. This is what the 90-year-old had wished for. But it is not only in Cape Town that people mourn. An official memorial service lasting almost three hours was held in Johannesburg at noon.

“We miss you. We thank you.”

Tutu had worked in St. Mary’s Cathedral from 1975 as the first black decant and later bishop of South Africa and fought with sharp words against apartheid, injustice and inhumanity. Several tutu grandchildren were present. One of them briefly shared how much this church meant to his grandfather. He ended with the words: “We miss you. We love you. We thank you.”

In the township of Soweto near Johannesburg, neighbors, friends and representatives from church and politics gathered in front of the house where Tutu lived with his family before he went to Cape Town. Neighbor Mabel Chakela found moving words. Desmond and Leah Tutu would always have taken care of everyone on the street. The Bishop of Johannesburg, Steve Moreo, said that The Arch, the ore, as Tutu is affectionately known by many, has always been driven by love for all criticism of grievances.

Everyone sang together on isiZulu. Everyone, including the bishop, danced to it. “What this man has done for the world community is beyond all books, all libraries, it’s in the hearts, minds and lives of people,” said the Dean of the Anglican Church in Johannesburg, Xolani Dlwati. “He has influenced many in their lives. That is why he will always be celebrated in South Africa and the world.”

Flowers, candles, mourning messages

Tutu deliberately chose to live in Soweto in 1975; he did not want to live at the headquarters of his white predecessors in a white suburb of Johannesburg. In front of his house on the street, where the Tutu family and the Mandela family once lived, people have been laying flowers, setting candles and leaving mourning messages since Sunday.

“He was someone who always showed South Africa what the right direction is,” describes one mourner. Says one woman, “I think he will leave a huge legacy for generations to come.” But she will remember one thing above all about Desmond Tutu: his infectious laugh.

He always made his point of view clear, said what he thought. But he could still laugh with those who disagreed. And that’s wonderful.

Mourning for Desmond Tutu in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Soweto

Karin Wehrheim, ARD Johannesburg, 30.12.2021 ยท 17:10

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