Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images
finance minister Trevor Manuel reflects on the role Desmond
Tutu played in his life as father and guardian from his time at the United
Democratic Front to when Tutu visited him at his offices when he was a
relationship goes back to 1984 when you were the general-secretary of the SA
Council of Churches (SACC), and I was a whippersnapper stand-in for the United
Democratic Front (UDF) at Khotso House in De Villiers Street in Johannesburg.
accommodated the UDF office, but on your terms.
to respect the SACC rules – you needed to know who was working in the office,
and we had to join devotions each morning. It was in these circumstances that I
was first introduced to you. The rules were simple, straightforward and not
negotiable. We loved and respected you for that then, as we still do.
followed by your move to Bishopscourt, as “The Arch”, and for the
first time, we could express our affection and respect with an epithet other
than “Your Grace”.
respect was now joined by a profound affection, informed by a sense that
“the archbishop is one of us”. There was a special African warmth
that was complimented by the Tutu humour. It is not that we’d heard the jokes
before; they came from a special place that created strong inclusivity.
your tenure, St George’s Cathedral increasingly provided a haven for the
expression of resistance to injustice. It was because you offered the
leadership – in the church and on the streets in a seamless way. Your presence
was so embracing. You backed us when we defied unjust laws and were true to
the day on the segregated beaches – the Strand and Melkbos – to defy beach
apartheid. “All God’s beaches for all God’s people” was your simple,
but effective rallying call. You demonstrated the interconnectedness between
the spiritual and the pastoral parts through these actions.
in 1989, when some of us were again detained, it was you, Father, who went to
see PW Botha to persuade him to release us. You were consistently courageous.
Leading marches on the streets and seeking out the epicentre of repression to
tackle them on their wrong ways. As the archbishop of Cape Town, you were the archbishop
of all the seekers of justice, in a style that extended way beyond any
denomination or religion. This continuous courage changed the face of all
the archbishop of Cape Town on 11 February 1990 when Madiba was released from
Victor Verster. Your calm and gentle persuasion resulted in Madiba and Ma’m
Winnie spending their first night together at Bishopscourt.
gesture immortalised Bishopscourt as “the people’s place” because
Madiba’s first-ever press conference was held there, in the garden on Monday,
12 February 1990. Yet, you held a firm line that Anglican priests should not
take membership of political parties so that they could minister to all.
as a father and guardian continued long after 1994. There is not a single
living person who could forget your role as chairperson of the TRC. Your tears
and anguish were a profound expression of the nation’s pain. It’s such a great
pity that we could not take that work to the logical next steps – perhaps
because we lacked the courage you and your team demonstrated. Sometimes
you expressed your love for us with severe admonishment, but we knew this came
from a good place.
deeply grateful for the fatherly role you played in our lives, comfortable to
express your affection and encouragement or your stern reprimand without a
break in the quality of your love. I am also most appreciative of your
consistency, and prayer was one of the Tutu constants.
that you once came to see me in the office of the minister of finance, on a
matter of the interface between state and church, namely taxation. It was far
more mundane than Mark 12:17, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to
God what is God’s”. Before we could talk, you had us all kneel down and
led with a deep love for all and through the example of how that love found
resonance. If South Africa is true to the principles espoused in the
Constitution, the nation would recognise that we have strayed far from the path
of such love, which resulted in your harsh admonishment late in your life, and
we would find a path back to the kind of nation that cares and which is
described in our Constitution.
eternal peace, thou great servant.
Manuel served as a Cabinet minister from 1994 to 2014 under the first four presidents
of a democratic South Africa: Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe
and Jacob Zuma.
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