South Africans of all races stopped at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town on Sunday to pay homage to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the anti-apartheid icon who died at the age of 90.
“Its importance goes beyond the limits of being Anglican,” said weeper Brent Goliath, who burst into tears outside the old stone building.
He told AFP that he was an altar boy and that he had met Tutus on several occasions.
“I was very moved this morning when I learned that he was deceased. I thank God that he is there for us”, he declared, wiping his eyes while placing a bouquet of pink flowers. under the photo of Tutu.
In the cathedral courtyard, Father Michael Weeder, dean of the cathedral, paced back and forth, answering phone calls and chatting with workers shortly after Sunday morning mass.
“He died a holy death,” he told AFP near a makeshift shrine being prepared for the public to lay flowers there.
Despite the loss, he said, “it brings some relief to the family as Father Desmond has suffered a lot in recent weeks.”
Tutu’s family members could be seen gathering and kissing at his former Cape Town residence behind a police cordon.
“He fought for us”
Dozens of South Africans stopped by the cathedral, although many people have not yet heard of his death – it is customary to disconnect and spend Boxing Day on the beach, rather than d ‘survey the city.
Among those who paid tribute to us was Miriam Mokwadi, a 67-year-old retired nurse, who said that the Nobel laureate “was a hero for us, he fought for us”.
“We are set free because of him. Without him we would probably have been lost as a country. He was just good,” Mokwadi said, shaking hands with his granddaughter.
Daphney Ramakgopa, 58, a local government worker, spoke of the loss the whole country was feeling.
“We saw him as an adviser to everyone in the country, especially our politicians,” she said.
Many passers-by remembered Tutu not only for his role in the fight against apartheid, but also for the way he continued to hold the democratic government to account, constantly denouncing corruption within the ruling party, the ‘African National Congress.
“I can’t think of anyone with that kind of moral compass” left in South Africa, said Aki Khan, a 64-year-old sound engineer and anti-apartheid veteran.
“But I really think his message filtered through to the young people.”
Cape Town’s famous Table Mountain is scheduled to be lit purple from 8:00 p.m. GMT until the funeral on January 1.
“Knowing that he had been ill for some time has not helped to lessen the blow to South Africa on this sad day,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a televised address.
“He was a man of unwavering courage, of principled convictions,” he added, announcing that the flags would be half-masted across the country until the day before the funeral.
“I will not forget this man”
In the township of Soweto near Johannesburg, which became synonymous with repression during the apartheid era, young people took selfies in front of Tutu’s former house, a few meters from Nelson Mandela’s house.
Local resident Lerato remembered Tutujogger in the surrounding streets in the morning and called his death “a blow”.
“This street is the only one in the world where two Nobel Peace Prize laureates lived. So you can imagine us, the neighbors around, we are really touched by his passing,” she said.
Another resident, Samba, remembers seeing Tutu when he came for a drink. “He was a down to earth person. He was great. I will not forget this man,” he said.
“His legacy will be his love for all people. He has always said that God is not the God of Christians, but God is the God of all people,” added Stephen Moreo, Anglican bishop of Johannesburg.
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