‘Touched many of us’: South Africans mourn Desmond Tutu’s death

A general gloom has settled over South Africa as tributes – and some criticism – pour in following the death of anti-apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

An ethnically diverse group of mourners gathered on Sunday outside St George’s Cathedral Church in Cape Town as they laid wreaths and paid their final respects to the 90-year-old Anglican priest.“The passing of the Arch has touched many of us. Even those who did not always agree with him politically are paying their last respects to the old man,”

Memorial services are being organised across the country’s main cities of Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Pretoria, as tributes pour in from African leaders and the international community for a man who was instrumental in building a democratic South Africa.

‘Racialised inequality’

However, a section of South African society remains critical of Tutu.

Modibe Madiba, who runs popular alternative media platform, the Insight Factor, told Al Jazeera young Black South Africans “continue to live with the consequences of how leaders like Archbishop Tutu handled the process of nation-building” in the country.

“I feel impacted by the legacy of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I live in a country where there is racialised inequality. This is what Tutu, who fought against apartheid, allowed us to inherit from the apartheid regime in the end,” he said.

“The world must remember the fight against apartheid was not a fight to cast votes. It was a fight for justice, for economic opportunities, for lives lost senselessly, and for people dispossessed of their land by the apartheid regime.”

After the end of apartheid, Tutu chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which was set up to unearth atrocities committed by the white-minority government from 1948 to 1991 when apartheid laws were repealed.

The hearings, which formally began in 1996, ended with many apartheid regime leaders walking away with blanket amnesty – a historical fact that has now sparked debates about how the archbishop should be remembered.

“Archbishop Tutu must be remembered for denouncing apartheid and later being part of a Black elitist group that abandoned the Black majority to enjoy the material comforts of the post-CODESA era,” Madiba said, referring to Convention for a Democratic South Africa, an umbrella group of nearly 100 groups that negotiated the end of apartheid rule in the country.

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