We ‘dazzling’ South Africans can do it – Desmond Tutu

2013-12-09 20:19

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South Africa still has some way to go in its journey of reconciliation, but the fact that “no one cried” for two months during the 2010 Fifa World Cup, shows us what’s possible, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has said.

If we can do it for two months, why can’t we do it for longer, Tutu asked the capacity crowd at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Houghton, Joburg, tonight.

Hundreds braved the rain to attend the event. At the back of the marquee, the courtyard was filled with colourful umbrellas. Many had to stand as the chairs ran out.

At the end of last week, a subdued Tutu spoke in an almost inaudible voice at a briefing in Cape Town the day after Mandela’s death. But tonight, the Arch was in his element, telling the people of South Africa they are “dazzling”. “Do you know you really are an incredible people? And we didn’t know it until this guy (Mandela) showed us what was so obvious.”

Tutu shared many anecdotes, among them that he was considered to be well known until a woman in San Francisco enthusiastically greeted him with a “hello, Archbishop Mandela!”

In a rare serious moment on the night, Tutu’s voice broke when he referred to a picture on the front page of City Press’ sister newspaper Rapport of “almost certainly” a young Afrikaner consoling “a little old black woman” at Mandela’s Houghton home on Friday. “This is because of Madiba.”

Tutu said Mandela was “like a magician with a wand, turning us into a glorious multicoloured people”.

“The chemistry of this country came to be affected (by Mandela’s acts of magnanimity instead of hatred). Do you remember that day he wore the Springbok jersey?” Tutu asked. “The place erupted. ‘Nelson, Nelson’ – I mean, boere (chanted it)!”

On the morning after Mandela’s release, Tutu told the audience, Madiba wanted to thank the kitchen staff. “And he did something I had seen him do many times. (At) a banquet, Madiba will go to the kitchen and thank the staff.”

Tutu thanked the international community for its support, Mandela’s former personal assistant, Zelda la Grange, for “the "really quite amazing" care she gave to Madiba, and his wife, Graça Machel, for giving Mandela “a happy ending”.

Tutu said Mandela only sometimes listened to him. Marrying Machel – Tutu told Mandela he was setting a bad example by “shacking up” – was such an occasion.

Before artists including Johnny Clegg and Yvonne Chaka Chaka took to the stage, Tutu told the audience members to say out loud: “I’m a VSP, I’m a very special person,” which they did with enthusiasm.

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