South Africa to accord special official state funeral to Archbishop Desmond Tutu on New Year’s Day

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South Africa to accord special official state funeral to Archbishop Desmond Tutu on New Year’s Day

The City of Cape Town has opened condolence books outside the cathedral, where hundreds of mourners braved the rainy weather to line the surrounding streets with flowers and messages of condolence

South Africa will accord a special official funeral Category 1 to late Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu on New Year’s Day, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on December 28.

Desmond Tutu, who was a globally venerated theologian, anti-apartheid campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, passed away at the age of 90 on December 26.

The special official funeral will take place at 10.00 a.m. (local time) in St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town on New Year’s Day on January 1.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa honours Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu with special official funeral category. The funeral will be held in compliance with the provisions of the COVID-19 health regulations that apply under Adjusted Alert Level 1 of the national state of disaster,” the president’s official twitter page said.

A state funeral is a public funeral ceremony with full military ceremonial honours, usually reserved for all Presidents of South Africa, as well as other notable individuals.

For Category 1 state funerals, the balustrades and pillars of the seat of government in Pretoria, the Union Buildings, as well as the City Hall of the capital city, will be draped in black cloth.

But there will be some limitations on the special funeral, which allows for some ceremonial elements by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).

State funeral Category 1 includes a 21-gun salute, a guard of honour, a fly past, a brass band.

On this particular occasion and based on the late Archbishop’s wishes, the SANDF ceremonial content will be limited to the handing over of the National Flag to [Tutu’s widow] Mam Leah Tutu,” Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele said in a statement.

“As part of this funeral designation, the National Flag will be half-masted throughout the country and at South African diplomatic missions worldwide from sunset today, December 28, 2021, until the evening of the funeral,” the minister added.

Other notable South Africans who have been honoured with a Category 1 state funeral include former President Nelson Mandela, his former Winnie Madikizela Mandela, senior ANC Minister Jackson Mthembu, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, and human rights lawyer George Bizos, who defended Mandela and others at the infamous Rivonia Trial that sent the accused to prison for 27 years before Mandela became the first democratically-elected President of South Africa in 1994.

The Anglican Church earlier announced that Tutu’s ashes will be interred at the Cathedral where he served after being appointed Archbishop of Cape Town.

Tutu was the first black cleric to be elected as the Bishop of Johannesburg before being inaugurated in 1986 as the first black cleric to become Archbishop of Cape Town.

Last Archbishop of Cape Town to be interred in the cathedral was Geoffrey Clayton, who died in 1957 just a day after he sent a letter to the then minority white apartheid-era Prime Minister J.G. Strijdom on behalf of all the bishops of the church, who said they would defy and not apply the requirements of segregating congregations in terms of the Native Laws Amendment Act.

Tutu had continued this tradition of resisting apartheid in non-violent ways throughout his life, earning him a Nobel Peace Prize. The funeral will be held in compliance with the provisions of the COVID-19 health regulations with only 200 people at a time allowed into the Cathedral, where Tutu’s body will lie in state from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on December 31.

The City of Cape Town has opened condolence books outside the cathedral, where hundreds of mourners braved the rainy weather to line the surrounding streets with flowers and messages of condolence.

As condolences continued to pour in from world leaders and others, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson recalled how he and renowned musician Peter Gabriel had taught Tutu to swim.

“He was a fast learner and was soon splashing by us with plenty of giggles,” Mr. Branson said in a tribute to Tutu on his blog.

“His energy, his passion, and his love for life and humanity shone out through everything he did. I’ll never forget his laugh, and how his smile lit up the room,” Mr. Branson said.

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