Tutu pays tribute to ‘precious diamond’
Archbishop emeritus looks back over 24 years
ARCHBISHOP Emeritus Desmond Tutu struggled to hold back the tears as he reflected on his friendship with Nelson Mandela, urging all South Africans to emulate Madiba’s “incredible gifts”, and honour his legacy.
Tutu, accompanied by his daughter Reverend Mpho Tutu, was addressing the media during a special briefing yesterday.
Tutu thanked the Mandela family for allowing all South Africans to call him the father of the nation.
He shared his memories and stories of Mandela, in the emotional, honest and blunt manner for which he has become renowned.
He listed some of the former president’s unforgettable achievements and great acts of compassion, mercy and forgiveness that united a nation following his release from prison. The exploits included walking on to the field at Ellis Park Stadium wearing a Springbok jersey for the 1995 Rugby World Cup final, and inviting Dr Percy Yutar, the man who prosecuted Mandela and nine other ANC leaders during the Rivonia Trial, to lunch.
His forgiveness even extended to some of the architects of the apartheid regime, said Tutu.
“When we, in the TRC, demanded to have PW Botha appear, he… wouldn’t (come). I don’t know if many of the people know that Madiba came to me and said ‘go and tell him I am prepared to attend the sessions when he will appear before the TRC, and I will sit side by side with him’.”
Mandela’s time in prison, Tutu said, had made him understand the human condition, and gave him the ability to understand the Afrikaners who were his prison warders.
“Like a most precious diamond held deep beneath the earth, Madiba who emerged from prison in January 1990, was virtually flawless when you think he went to prison an angry, relatively young, young man, and emerged as this incredible icon of magnanimity with compassion.”
Tutu called on all South Africans to honour and build on Mandela’s legacy. “What’s going to happen to us now that our father has died? Does it spell doomsday and disaster for us? Some have suggested that after he’s gone, our country is going to go up in flames. This is, I think, to discredit us South Africans, to discredit his legacy. The sun will rise tomorrow, and the next day… It may not appear as bright as yesterday, but life will carry on.
“Over the past 24 years Madiba taught us how to come together and believe in ourselves and each other, a unifier from the moment he walked out of prison. He taught us extraordinarily practical lessons about forgiveness, compassion and reconciliation. Help us to emulate him, help… this fantastic country to be the best memorial we can…”
GRATITUDE: Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu extended his thanks to the Mandela family yesterday for sharing Nelson Mandela with South Africa and the world.