Desmond Tutu Is Laid to Rest in South African State Funeral

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It was a meteorological allegory that would have pleased the charismatic cleric Mr. Tutu, who won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his global campaign to end the country’s racist policies and called him a “rainbow nation” for describing the optimism of the South. He is credited with coining the term. Africa’s transition to a multiracial democracy.

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

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Hundreds of mourners gathered before a Saturday service at St George’s, the oldest Anglican church in southern Africa, which Mr Tutu had mobilized during the 1980s at a refuge for resistance against white-minority rule. The number of attendees at 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 campaigner, praised Mr Tutu’s message of peaceful coexistence as being as important for the country’s future as it was for the turbulent transition to democracy. During, when it helped stop the mass bloodshed.

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

The death of Mr Tutu, who played a key apartheid role as head of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, marks the final demise of South Africa’s top anti-apartheid leaders. It comes as Africa’s most developed economy faces growing challenges: an economy weakened by repeated waves of Covid-19, continuing racial tensions and infighting in the ruling African National Congress led by Nelson Mandela.

According to the Office for National Statistics, nearly 30 years after the fall 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.

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

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

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

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

The scene was echoed by the small crowd gathered at the Grand Parade – where Mr Tutu stood alongside Mr Mandela during his friend’s first speech after 27 years in prison in 1990 – to watch the service on a big screen.

“He was the one person who brought us together,” said Noleen Thomas, 43, unemployed, from the outskirts of the city. “I think we need to stop and reflect and listen to his message again. So it doesn’t fade.”

Affectionately known to the people of South Africa as “Ark”, Mr Tutu requested a funeral ceremony at no cost. The only flower in the cathedral was his family’s bouquet of carnations. Well-wishers in South Africa have filed near his unpolished wooden coffin, which has been lying in St George’s kingdom since Thursday. A local priest said that public access to the coffin should be increased, “for fear there could be a stampede.”

The low-key funeral was followed by a week of national mourning. Church bells ring and half-timbered flags are flown throughout the country every day at noon. The archbishop’s favorite national cricket team wore a black armband in the first test match against India. Table Mountain was decorated in his honor in purple—the color of the archbishop’s garb.

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

Mr Ramaphosa won the election last year on a pledge to end government corruption, but is now battling “a choreographed campaign” from rival factions in the ANC.

Senior party officials backing Mr Zuma are openly challenging the president’s economic agenda, which focuses on attracting foreign investment after a five-year decline in per capita GDP. Some are supporting populist economic policies, such as using a central bank to fund infrastructure projects.

Unlike emerging markets, South Africa entered the pandemic from a vulnerable position, exacerbated by lockdowns and travel restrictions, over the past decade to reduce inequalities and expand its middle class.

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

“He was very humble, he did what he did for the country… for the people. Now, it’s all about power,” said 41-year-old bank employee Selive Tsele, who had come to pay his respects.

After the service, Mr. Tutu’s ashes will be buried behind the pulpit of St. George. His daughter said the shower of love for her father “warmed our hearts.”

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

Write Joe Parkinson at [email protected]

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