Johannesburg – President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday evening paid tribute to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu who passed away earlier in the day at the age of 90.
In an address to the nation, Ramaphosa said it was one of the saddest days for the country as Tutu was one of the nation’s finest compatriots and that he embodied the essence of humanity.
He also described Tutu as a man of unwavering courage, of principled conviction, and whose life was spent in the service of others.
“Knowing he had been ill for some time has done little to lessen the blow dealt to South Africa this sad day. Uwile umthi omkhulu (A giant tree has fallen).
“We are comforted in the knowledge that he has left an indelible mark in the lives of the millions of people who had the privilege and honour of knowing him,” Ramaphosa said.
Speaking of Tutu’s role during the Truth and Reconciliation hearings in the 90s as well as living through the injustices of apartheid, Ramaphosa said like many of his time, Tutu was a witness to the gravest injustices and the most intolerable cruelty.
“And yet, his faith in humanity, like his faith in God, was unwavering.
“He knew in his soul that good would triumph over evil, that justice would prevail over iniquity, and that reconciliation would prevail over revenge and recrimination. He knew that apartheid would end, that democracy would come. He knew that our people would be free,” Ramaphosa said.
The ANC leader said that by the same measure, Tutu was convinced, even to the end of his life, that poverty, hunger and misery can be defeated and that all people can live together in peace, security and comfort.
Ramaphosa hastened to highlight that for Tutu, it was not enough that he should preach peace and that Tutu had to join with the people of South Africa and the people of all countries, in working tirelessly and diligently for the attainment of peace.
“It was not enough for him to bring God’s blessings to the poor and the needy. He had to join the Struggle for social justice, for development, for transformation, so that all may have the necessities of life. His brave and often critical voice lost none of its vigour when apartheid ended. He continued his work as a tireless campaigner for the rights of the oppressed.”
Ramaphosa said Tutu was frank and forthright, speaking truth to power, even when this meant criticising the democratic government.
Further in his address, Ramaphosa noted that South Africa would not know the peace it seeks until all have justice until all have a place to sleep and enough to eat until all children have an education until all women feel safe in their homes and on the streets.
President Nelson Mandela said of Tutu that he was a voice that was “sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid, and seldom without humour”.
“Tonight, we carry in our thoughts and prayers Mam Leah Tutu and the Tutu family. Our entire nation shares in your loss and your grief. Know that, even at this moment of great pain, we rejoice in a life that was dedicated to the betterment of others.”
He said that the nation’s loss was “ a global bereavement”.
“Go well, good and faithful servant. You will be sorely missed,” Ramaphosa concluded.
Tutu was the last surviving South African laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Tutu, fondly known as the “Arch” and for his infectious giggle and humanity, was born of Xhosa and Tswana parents and was educated in mission schools at which his father taught.
He was born on October 7, 1931, in Klerksdorp.
Tutu received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1984 for his non-violent role in opposing apartheid in South Africa.
Courtesy of IOL