Desmond Tutu was the moral compass and national conscience – President Cyril Ramaphosa
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Cape Town - President Cyril Ramaphosa says the late Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was not only the country’s moral compass but also the national conscience.
“Even after the advent of democracy, he did not hesitate to draw attention, often harshly, to our shortcomings as leaders of the democratic State,” Ramaphosa said while delivering the eulogy at the special official funeral of Tutu in St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town.
Tutu, who was fondly referred to as the Arch, died at the age of 90 on Sunday.
Ramaphosa described him as a global icon – someone of great moral stature, of exceptional qualities and of service to humanity.
“Our departed father was a crusader in the Struggle for freedom, for justice, for equality and for peace, not just in South Africa, the country of his birth, but around the world as well.”
According to Ramaphosa, Tutu was a humble and brave human being who spoke up for the oppressed, the downtrodden and the suffering.
“In doing so, he walked in the footsteps of his mentor, Father Trevor Huddleston, and of the many heroic champions of freedom in our country and on our continent,” he said.
“How fitting is it that his parents named him Mpilo, meaning life. In his life he enriched the lives of all he met and all those who got to know him.”
The president said the later archbishop emeritus was a man with faith.
“For him, opposing injustice, standing up for the oppressed, defying unjust laws, was God’s work.
“Destiny anointed him a champion of the immortal cause of justice,” he said.
Ramaphosa highlighted that Tutu was not content to preach about social justice from the pulpit.
“He was with the homeless, the helpless, the persecuted, the sick and the destitute in the streets, in shelters and homes.
“He embraced all who had ever felt the cold wind of exclusion and they, in turn, embraced him.”
He likened him to Jesus Christ, whom he said, embraced all those who society looked down upon and rejected.
“Throughout his life, he became involved in causes both at home and abroad that went to the very heart of the quest for social justice.”
The president lauded Tutu for the role he played during the country’s transition to democracy.
“Alongside (former) president Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Tutu helped steer our nation through this painful period,” he said as he recounted his role as the chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
He noted that Tutu saw the country as a “rainbow nation” that emerged from the shadow of apartheid, united in its diversity, with freedom and equal rights for all.
“The Arch bequeathed us many things – the importance of having the courage of one’s convictions, solidarity with the oppressed, delivering on the promises made by the Constitution, and many others.
“But it was with this term; rainbow nation that he bequeathed our new nation the greatest gift of all: hope and forgiveness.”
However, Ramaphosa said the country was still finding its feet on its long road to nationhood.
“He has left us at another difficult time in the life of our nation.
“Problems and challenges are everywhere,” he said.
He said the most fitting tribute to pay Tutu was to take up the cause of social justice for which he tirelessly campaigned throughout his life.