Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, 90, died on Boxing Day, Sunday December 26.
The death of the Arch, as he was fondly referred to, was announced by Cape Town Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.
In an impromptu press briefing on Sunday morning, Archbishop Makgoba described Archbishop Tutu as a man of prayer and a “deeply spiritual person with moral clarity”.
Testifying on the Arch’s resilience, Desmond Tutu IP Trust acting chairperson Dr Mamphela Ramphele said the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and Freedom of the City of Cape Town awards, had battled with cancer for more than 20 years.
A mural of the face and name of the Milnerton resident, alongside that of his late friend and former president Nelson Mandela, gazes at Table Mountain from the City of Cape Town metro headquarters.
Archbishop Makgoba said: “Even in pain, he would cackle, joke and laugh. We cry with South Africans, we cry with the family. May his soul rest in peace and rise with glory.”
Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille, a good friend of the Arch, expressed her condolences to the Arch’s wife, Leah Tutu.
“We will surely all miss our dearest Arch. Archbishop Tutu was many things to many people. He was a pastor, a spiritual leader, an activist, a healer and he also opposed racial discrimination and all other forms of discrimination and injustices – whether it was economic, gender, sexual orientation, religious, culture and environmental injustices,” she said.
Ms De Lille said although he was a Christian, Archbishop Tutu believed in a God for all.
“Humour and a great sense of timing were among the Arch’s greatest essence. He had an extraordinary ability to diffuse tension and contain anger, and remind people of the human essence. He used humour to convey important messages,” she said.
Qualifying her statement, she recounted a public meeting with the Arch in Woodstock, in the early 80s during the height of Apartheid, where he was the main speaker.
“He spoke truth to power during Apartheid, but he also spoke truth to power in the post-Apartheid dispensation,” she said.
Ms De Lille was among those who were with him in his final moments on Sunday morning.
City mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said it is with sadness that they said goodbye to a man who loved everyone equally.
The mayor said despite never having met him, he and his generation “felt deeply touched” by the Arch’s message.
“One of the last giants of our time, the Arch and Madiba were a formidable pair who together served as South Africa’s moral compass and vocal and critical conscience,” Mr Hill-Lewis said.
Mr Hill-Lewis announced road closures around the Cathedral. He said there would be condolence books placed in all city offices, where people may pay their last respects by writing messages of support.
Dr Ramphele said: “Much has been said about the Arch, but the most important part of the Arch is who he was as God’s creation. Here was a man who wasn’t given any chance to survive childhood because of polio. He didn’t have a chance, people thought, of surviving his youth because of TB, and for the latter part of his life (for) 23 years he lived with prostate cancer.”
She made special mention to Archbishop Tutu’s activism and awareness efforts relating to polio and TB.
“He made sure people do not suffer what he suffered. He was a great promoter of well-being and healthcare and supported people across the spectrum, but with respect to the challenge of prostate cancer, we need to know it’s one of the most commonest cancers,” she said.
She said the family and friends would like to focus on the Arch’s teaching moments, emphasising that he had valued Ubuntu.
In a statement issued by the minister in the presidency Mondli Gungubele, president Cyril Ramaphosa paid tribute to Archbishop Tutu, whom he described as a “patriot without equal”.
Mr Ramaphosa extended his condolences to Ms Tutu, the Tutu family, the board and staff of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, the Elders and Nobel Laureate Group.
President Ramaphosa said: “The passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is another chapter of bereavement in our nation’s farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa.”
The Arch had a long history with both the ANC, the PAC and the Black Consciousness Movement. In 1955, the late African philosopher Robert Sobukwe assisted him in his BA studies at Unisa.
The Black Consciousness Movement also bankrolled the studies of one of his children’s university fees.
In 1955, he married his wife Leah, with whom he had four children in Trevor Thamsanqa, Thandeka, Nontombi and Mpho.
According to Archbisop Tutu’s profile on www.sahistory.org.za, he was ordained as a deacon at St Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg.