Young South Africans learn of Tutu’s activism for equality

JOHANNESBURG — Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s legacy is reverberating among young South Africans, many of whom were not born when the clergyman battled apartheid and sought full rights for the nation’s Black majority.

Tutu, who died Sunday at the age of 90, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for those efforts.

Even though they did not know much about him, some young South Africans told The Associated Press on Monday that they understood his role as one of the most prominent figures to help their country become a democracy.

Zinhle Gamede, 16, said she found out about Tutu’s passing on social media and has learned more about him over the past day.

“At first I only knew that he was an archbishop. Gamede stated that she didn’t know anything else.

She said Tutu’s death had inspired her to learn more about South Africa’s history, especially the struggle against white minority rule.

“I think that people who fought for our freedom are great people. They have made the world a better place. She said that today she is able to live her life free from the constraints of apartheid.

Following the end of apartheid in 1994, when South Africa became a democracy, Tutu chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that documented atrocities during apartheid and sought to promote national reconciliation. Tutu was also one of the most important religious leaders in the world to support LGBTQ rights.

“As a gay person, it is rare to hear people from the church speaking openly about gay issues, but I found out about him through gay activists who sometimes use his quotes during campaigns,” said Lesley Morake, 25. “That is how I knew about him, and that is what I will remember about him.”

Tshepo Nkatlo, 32, said he is focusing on the positive things he hears about Tutu, instead of some negative sentiments he saw on social media.

“One of the things I picked up on Facebook and Twitter was that some people were criticizing him for the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) because there are still many issues regarding the TRC,” Nkatlo said, referring to some who say Tutu should have been tougher on whites who perpetrated abuses under apartheid and should have ordered that they be prosecuted.

South Africa is holding a week of mourning for Tutu. To honor Tutu, bells tolled at noon Monday from St. George’s Anglican Cathedral. The bells at “the people’s cathedral,” where Tutu worked to unite South Africans of all races against apartheid, will toll for 10 minutes at noon for five days to mark Tutu’s life.

“We ask all who hear the bells to pause their busy schedules for a moment in tribute” to Tutu, the current archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, said. Anglican churches in South Africa will also ring the bells this week at noon. The Angelus prayer will then be recited.

Several services in South Africa were being planned to honor Tutu’s life, as tributes came in from around the world.

Tutu’s coffin will be displayed Friday at the cathedral in Cape Town to allow the public to file past the casket, “which will reflect the simplicity with which he asked to be buried,” Makgoba said in a statement. On Friday night Tutu’s body will “lie alone in the cathedral which he loved.”

A requiem Mass will be held Saturday and, according to Tutu’s wishes, he will be cremated and his ashes placed in the cathedral’s mausoleum, church officials said Monday.

In addition, an ecumenical and interfaith service will be held for Tutu on Thursday in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria.

South Africans are laying flowers at the cathedral, in front of Tutu’s home in Cape Town’s Milnerton area, and in front of his former home in Soweto.

President Cyril Ramaphosa visited Tutu’s home Monday in Cape Town where he paid his respects to Tutu’s widow, Leah.

“He knew in his soul that good would triumph over evil, that justice would prevail over iniquity, and that reconciliation would prevail over revenge and recrimination. Ramaphosa stated Sunday evening in a national broadcast that apartheid was over and that democracy would prevail.

“He knew that our people would be free. Ramaphosa stated that he believed that the people of South Africa would be free by taking the same measures.

“May we follow in his footsteps,” Ramaphosa said. “May we, too, be worthy inheritors of the mantle of service, of selflessness, of courage, and of principled solidarity with the poor and marginalized.”

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