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Johannesburg - City of Joburg mayor Mpho Phalatse yesterday paid tribute to the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu for the pivotal role he played in South Africa's history and the country’s transition from apartheid to democracy.
“We were truly blessed as Soweto, as the city of Johannesburg and as a nation to have had a man of this calibre live and walk in our midst," Phalatse said.
She was speaking at a prayer service held in memory of the late archbishop outside his home along the renowned Vilakazi Street in Orlando West, Soweto.
Tutu died on December 26 at the age of 90.
Phalatse also noted that South Africa was blessed to have had two Nobel Peace Prize laureates living in one street.
She added: “SA is a rich melting pot of different races, culture and religious diversity. It was their wish (Mandela and Tutu) to see us embrace that as a gift, as a strength and not a weakness. They sought to show us how to build bridges and not to burn them.”
She lauded Tutu for having coined the term “Rainbow Nation” and said it was up to South Africans to keep Tutu’s legacy going.
Video: Noni Mokati/ IOL Politics
“SA is a rich melting pot of different races, cultures and religious diversity. It was their wish to see us embrace that as a gift, as a strength and not a weakness. They sought to show us how to build bridges and not to burn them. Today I ask myself: will we continue building those bridges and will we stop learning from the bridges that they built.”
Meanwhile, the chairperson of the Orlando Pirates choir, Siphiwe Ramathibela, said they had been summoned by the football club chairman Dr Irvin Khoza to support the event in honour of Tutu.
“It is an important gesture for us to demonstrate, especially knowing the relationship that the chairman and his wife had with the archbishop."
We know the significant role that the archbishop played and the contribution he has made in building the nation,“ he said.
Twin sisters Gabriella and Michaela Takkos, 16, arrived outside Tutu’s home with their mother Dr Sandra Fernandes, other family members and friends to also lay floors near the memorial wall. They also shared a short prayer.
“He was one of the many people in the country who fought for justice and racial equality. He has been at the forefront of it all,” said Gabriella while Michaela added that she had learnt a great deal about Tutu in school and that the archbishop was influential within her community.
“The archbishop’s passing has taught us a great deal and how important it is that we bring our kids to places such as these and teach them about this country's history,” Fernandes said.
More mourners are expected to flock to the house over the next couple of days leading to the archbishop's funeral on Saturday.