Cape Town - An atmosphere of celebration filled Cape Town’s historic City Hall last night as the City hosted a special interfaith tribute in honour of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s commitment to religious inclusiveness and in celebration of his life.
This was the same venue where in May 1994 he held former President Nelson Mandela’s hand while introducing him to over 30 000 people as the country’s new President.
Tutu’s family, led by Mama Leah, were the guests of honour at the service.
Among the faiths represented were Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Brahma Kumaris, Bahá’í, African Traditional Religion and Khoisan. Representatives from each faith recited a prayer.
Various local and international artists including Zolani Mahola, who sang a favourite of Tutu’s, “Lakutshon'iLanga”. She also did a duet of “Paradise Road” with Fancy Galada.
Others who sang in tribute to the Arch as part of the service were Jonathan Butler, who played “Falling In Love With Jesus”, the SA Youth Choir who performed the national anthem and the Gugulethu Tenors who sang “The Prayer”.
Among the dignitaries who spoke was former SA High Commissioner to the UK and a former UDF General Secretary Cheryl Carolus.
Sharing her memories of her times as an anti-apartheid activist with Tutu, whom she referred to as “Father”, Carolus thanked Mama Leah for the love that she shared with Tutu.
“Your love, your own work and your marriage is an inspiration to us all.”
She spoke of Tutu’s courage and his prophetic ministry and how he was a guiding light to anti-apartheid activists in the Struggle.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu IP Trust co-chairperson Dr Mamphela Ramphele said that the occasion was one to re-emphasise the central message of Tutu’s ministry and commitment to South Africa as a citizen and his life as a man of faith.
“The Arch’s greatest gift to all of us, not just in South Africa but across the globe, was to teach us by his example.”
She said Tutu did not do all that he did to fulfill a political agenda but because he had a calling.
Others who spoke were Premier Alan Winde, who speaking directly to Mama Leah said: “We are all here with you to celebrate this wonderful man, the Arch.”
He said the world would have been a very different place had Tutu never lived in it with his courage and love.
Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, recalled that a large part of Tutu’s ministry was spent under the oppression of apartheid.
“He always believed that a better future was possible, even if not yet visible. He showed us what our future should be, and lived what our future could be, and he kept faith and hope in that future always.
“In the years when our fragile democracy took blow after institutional blow, he was there never flinching from holding a mirror up to our nation and bringing sharp conviction and rebuke.”
Before the service Hill-Lewis explained the idea behind it was inspired by a quote from Tutu, who once said: “It doesn’t matter where we worship or what we call God; there is only one, interdependent human family.”
Hill-Lewis said the City was paying tribute to Tutu’s spirit of inclusiveness through this special tribute.
The City live-streamed the service on its YouTube channel and shared the link on its various social media pages in a bid to encourage the general public to follow the proceedings from the comfort of their homes.
Nevertheless, a large screen was placed outside the City Hall to allow those members of the public who attended in person to view the service.
General public access to City Hall itself was not possible due to limited seating as a result of ongoing national Covid-19 safety protocols.
Meanwhile, Tutu’s body will lie in state at the St George’s Cathedral today (Thursday, December 30) and tomorrow (Friday, December 31). Public viewing will be allowed from 9am to 5pm on both days.
The body of the beloved Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has arrived at St George's Cathedral where his body will lie in state for the next two days.— Cape Argus (@TheCapeArgus) December 30, 2021
Video: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency pic.twitter.com/cthjRbMA7c
Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation chairperson Niclas Kjellstrom-Matseke said: “The Archbishop was very clear on his wishes for his funeral. He wanted no ostentatiousness or lavish spending.
“He asked that the coffin be the cheapest available, and that a bouquet of carnations from his family be the only flowers in the cathedral.”
Tutu had also asked that donations be made to the foundation in lieu of additional flowers (Bank details: The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, First National Bank, Branch 209809, Swift FIRNZAJJ, Account Number 62336748358.)
Earlier, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu IP Trust had listed a number of events that would take place between now and the funeral on Saturday, most of them led by the church.
Among these are an Ecumenical Thanksgiving service at St Cyprian’s Cathedral in Kimberley at 10am today and an Ecumenical and Interfaith service at 11am, also today at St Albans Cathedral in Pretoria.
At the same time there will be a memorial service hosted by the Diocese of Johannesburg in St Mary's Cathedral at 11am and on Friday, and there will be a memorial service at St Mary's Cathedral in Gqeberha at 10am.
More pictures from the interfaith service can be seen below: