South Africa paid its last respects for Archibishop Desmond Tutu in a state funeral held at the Anglical cathedral in Cape Town on Saturday. Speaking at the occassion, President Cyril Ramaphosa called the anti-apartheid icon the “spiritual father'”of the new nation.

The anti-apartheid activist was a ‘humble and brave human being who spoke for the oppressed, the downtrodden and the suffering of the world,’ the President said in the eulogy he delivered at the funeral. 

He added, “While our beloved Madiba [Mandela] was the father of our democracy, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the spiritual father of our new nation.”

Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who spent his life championing the cause of equality and universal human rights, died at the age of 90 on December 26. 

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In keeping with his wishes for a ceremony without ostentation, Tutu’s body lay in a plain pine coffin during the service at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, according to reports by Sky News.

“He saw our country as a rainbow nation, emerging from the shadow of apartheid. It was with this term, rainbow nation, that he bequeathed our new nation the greatest git of all: hope and forgiveness,” President Ramaphosa said.

Tutu’s foundation stated that he had requested for ‘no lavish spending’ on his funeral and had even asked that the coffin be ‘the cheapest available’.

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At the cathedral, the archbishop’s daughter, Reverend Nontombi Naomi Tutu, said, “Thank you daddy for the many ways you showed us love, for the many times you challenged us, for the many times you comforted us.”

Attendance at the event was limited due to coronavirus restrictions. In a video message shown at the funeral, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, described Tutu as ‘the light of Christ’, “Archbishop Tutu lit up the world… that light has lit up countries globally that were struggling with fear, conflict, persecution, oppression, where the marginalised suffered. He never ceased to shed light. His light was the light of Christ, and that is why his light will go on shining,” reported Sky News.

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A pioneer in the country’s fight against racial injustice, Archbishop Tutu was born on October 7, 1931, in South Africa’s town of Klerksdorp. While announcing the news of his passing, the President had said that Tutu’s death “is another chapter of bereavement in our nation’s farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us as a liberated South Africa.”