Political parties pay tribute to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

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Desmond Tutu. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
Desmond Tutu. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
  • The ANC says Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was a tower of moral conscience and led from the front in the fight against the apartheid regime.
  • Political parties recognised his work at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but decried the lack of prosecution of agents of the apartheid regime.
  • Tutu was the last surviving South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

South Africa has lost a tower of moral conscience and an epitome of wisdom, the ANC said on Sunday, paying tribute to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

The party added Tutu dedicated his life to the service of the people of South Africa and led tirelessly from the front for the liberation of the country.

"During his tenure as the chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission [TRC], Archbishop Tutu pulled no punches in condemning the atrocities committed by the apartheid regime and its architects against black South Africans.

"Following the fall of apartheid, Archbishop Tutu campaigned for gay rights and spoke on a wide range of subjects, among them the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and conscientised the world about climate change.

"He retired from public life in 2010. Indeed, the big baobab tree has fallen. South Africa and the mass democratic movement have lost a tower of moral conscience and an epitome of wisdom," the ANC said in a statement.

The governing party was heavily criticised by Tutu in recent years.

In 2011, he gave it a tongue lashing over its handling of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama's visa.

The Dalai Lama called off his trip to South Africa ahead of Tutu's planned 80th birthday celebrations after the government dilly-dallied and did not grant him a visa.

READ | 'He was at peace': Tutu was surrounded by family in his final hours

Tutu said then-president Jacob Zuma's government did not represent him, warning he would pray for the party's downfall as he did against the apartheid regime. 

The SACP sent its condolences to the Tutu family, saying although it would remember Tutu for his work at the TRC; years have passed without agents of the apartheid regime being prosecuted.

"In addition, for all the families that lost their loved ones because of the actions of apartheid security and other networks to find closure, not some but all the cases and other crimes in which the apartheid regime or its networks killed people must be included in the scope of the investigation, which must be expedited given the long time that has passed. We need closure as the formerly oppressed," it added.

The GOOD party said Tutu never quit supporting "proverbial underdogs".

"He never gave up praying for the redemption of stray members of the human flock - even, by name, for apartheid presidents, and he never relinquished his belief that our innate human values would prevail in the end, and that the world could be a better place.

"In the last phase of his life, over the past two decades, his professional career over, the archbishop represented the country and continent with the utmost integrity as a global icon of leadership and morality," the party added in a statement.

Azapo said many people would not know that Tutu played an active role in the Black Consciousness movement, specifically black theology.

"He was one of the first patrons of the National Forum back in 1993. He was, however, not without controversy, especially with regard to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which did not follow up on the prosecution of the murders of Steve Biko, doctors Fabian Robert Ribeiro and his wife Florence, the Cradock Four and the Mxenge family, among many.

"The commission was very instrumental in facilitating national cohesion but left the victims of the apartheid government still landless and without economic transformation. While we commend and lament his contribution to society respectively, we do wish to offer our condolences to the Tutu family," it added. 

ALSO READ | The world is different because of Tutu, says Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

Cosatu said Tutu sacrificed a lot and dedicated his life not just to free and serve his people but to also build a truly united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa. 

He was a principled leader whose courage and wisdom were unmatched, and whose love for South Africa and its people knew no bounds, it added in a statement.

Tutu, the last surviving South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate, died in Cape Town on Sunday.

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