Mama Leah Tutu celebrates her 84th birthday with Anglican Archbishop Njongo Nudungane and her husband Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Picture: Ross Jansen

Cape Town - A week after the City of Cape Town rolled out a blue carpet to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, the spotlight shifted to his wife, Mama Leah on Sunday as she celebrated her 84th birthday.
In a small and intimate celebration attended by family and friends, Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille described Tutu as a strong, dignified and always cheerful person.

The birthday celebrations also involved tree-planting at the site.

“I have great respect and admiration for our dear Mama Leah Tutu.

“Thank you for your contribution to our country and for standing by the Arch over many, many years through it all and thank you for sharing the Arch with us,” she said.

The event took place at one of Cape Town’s oldest and most historic buildings, the old Granary Building in Buitenkant Street, which will now house the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation’s Peace Centre.

In September 2014, the city agreed to lease the building to the foundation.

Over the years the building has seen several changes in terms of the purposes for which it was used.

Between 1814 and 1820 not only exports and imports were handled in the building but also redistribution of slaves liberated from the oceanic slave trade.

And in 1827 part of the building was converted into a women’s prison.

“It has been the backdrop to a changing society - from our colonial past marked by slavery and hurt, through to the divisive apartheid regime and finally seeing the start of our vibrant democracy,” De Lille said.

“The lease of the granary to the foundation will strengthen its work of using its resources and voices to spread a message of hope and ubuntu to promote the flourishing of people and our planet through forgiveness and reconciliation with respect, integrity and joy."

“This is indeed in line with our commitment to building a caring and inclusive city through promoting peace, tolerance and reconciliation."

“We are building a Cape Town where we remember our past, but design our own shared future and where everyone feels a sense of belonging.”

She said the city could draw wisdom and guidance from giants such as Nelson Mandela, Tutu, Mama Leah and the many other heroes and heroines of the struggle for freedom and democracy in its attempts to attain its mission.

Weekend Argus