Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others collect litter as part of his birthday celebrations in a township on the outskirts of Cape Town on Monday. Picture: Associated Press

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu spent a few minutes of his 82nd birthday on Monday picking up litter in Cape Town’s Joe Slovo Park.

Tutu, with members of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation and schoolchildren, cleaned up litter along Democracy Way.

He said it was important that people took pride in their neighbourhoods and considered their impact on the environment.

“We hope that people will say: ‘We are somebody, we don’t have to live among all this litter. It’s like saying we are rubbish’,” he said.

The clean-up was planned for Lagoon Beach in collaboration with the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, but when the party arrived at the beach, it was already clean.

Instead, the volunteers bagged rubbish along the road outside Marconi Beam Primary School, where the Tutus formally handed over a new sports ground and play area on Saturday.

Anne Field, who manages the archives for the Tutu Legacy Foundation, said this was not the first clean-up they had done in the Joe Slovo area, where the foundation’s offices are based. “The archbishop lives in Milnerton. I think he’s becoming more concerned with this area,” she said.

Kweku Aacht, a UK facilitator with the foundation, said he hoped their litter-bagging would inspire the neighbourhood to do the same.

“It’s about visibility. If they see people doing it, maybe they’ll think of doing it too.”

President Jacob Zuma sent birthday wishes. “We wish him good health and a long life so that he can continue contributing to nation building and social cohesion, which he continues to do even in retirement. On behalf of the government and the people of South Africa, we wish Archbishop Tutu a joyous occasion.”

The ANC Youth League also sent birthday wishes. “We are happy for our grandfather, who has always stood in defence of human rights and equality for all. We wish him a happy birthday,” said spokesman Bandile Masuku.

Daily News Correspondent