Cape Town, South Africa – A general gloom has settled in South Africa as tributes – and some criticism – pour in after the death of anti-apartheid icon, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
An ethnically diverse group of mourners gathered outside St George’s Cathedral Church in Cape Town on Sunday as they lay wreaths and pay their final respects to the 90-year-old Anglican priest.
âThe death of L’Arche touched many of us. Even those who have not always agreed with him politically pay their last respects to the old man, âTsweu Moleme, whose father was taught by Tutu at Munsieville High School at the strongest, told Al Jazeera. of the apartheid regime.
A number of memorial services are held in the country’s major cities, Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Pretoria, as tributes from African leaders and the international community pour in for a man who has been instrumental in building a Democratic South Africa.
Modibe Madiba, who runs a popular alternative media platform, Insight Factor, told Al Jazeera that young black South Africans “continue to live with the consequences of how leaders like Archbishop Tutu have handled the process. nation-building âin the land.
âI feel touched by the legacy of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I live in a country where there are racial inequalities. This is what Tutu, who fought against apartheid, finally allowed us to inherit the apartheid regime, âhe said.
âThe world must remember that the fight against apartheid was not a fight to vote. It was a fight for justice, for economic opportunity, for lives lost for no reason and for those dispossessed of their land by the apartheid regime.
However, part of South African society remains critical of Tutu’s role as chairman of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), established in 1994 to unearth atrocities committed by the white minority government. from 1948 to 1991, when apartheid laws were repealed.
The hearings ended with the departure of many leaders of the apartheid regime with a general amnesty – a historic fact that has now sparked debates over how the Archbishop should be commemorated.
“Archbishop Tutu is to be remembered for denouncing apartheid and later being part of an elitist black group that abandoned the black majority to enjoy the material comforts of the post-CODESA era,” Madiba said. , referring to the Convention for a Democratic South Africa, an umbrella group of nearly 100 groups that negotiated an end to the apartheid regime in the country.
Jason, a 29-year-old resident of Pretoria, said that while the TRC “should have done more” to seek justice for the black, colored and Indian community in South Africa, Tutu’s legacy is ” not tainted “by the results.
“Archbishop Tutu took the restorative justice approach and rightly so because bloodshed was not the solution at the time,” Jason, who has a unique name, told Al Jazeera. .
This is a sentiment reinforced by Tutu who received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his nonviolent efforts to end racial segregation and white minority rule in the African nation.
Sikhumbuzo Mgxwati, 32, is among the growing voices of young South Africans who are ambivalent about the legacy of the country’s last Nobel Peace Prize winner.
âGrowing up we were nourished by the idea of ââapartheid heroes as the people who liberated black people, but today you realize that they just assimilated into the same system that brought us to life. kept oppressed, living precarious lives without opportunities, âhe told Al Jazeera.
Mgxwati said he would not attend a local memorial service for Tutu. He said the history of anti-apartheid activists like Tutu is “often watered down” to fit a certain narrative.
“I am sad for the loss of his family, but I want him to be remembered as a colonial tool,” he said.
Mgxwati refers to Tutu’s public criticism of anti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, whom he urged to apologize for his role in an armed struggle to end racial segregation during the ‘one of the TRC hearings.
However, after Winnie’s death in 2018, the Archbishop published A declaration in which he said that “on second thought, his courageous challenge (Winnie) was a source of deep inspiration” to him and to generations of South African activists.
Lungelo Nkosi, a 27-year-old student, said he wanted the country to focus on the good the Archbishop has done.
” I am in mourning. He played a central role in promoting sanctions against apartheid in South Africa, âhe told Al Jazeera. “After all is said and done, he was a real beacon of morality and we must mourn him.”
“Among a host of other amazing contributions to the liberation of South Africa was its call for the transformation of the South African Rugby Union,” Nkosi said.
Melissa Bingham, 24, said she plans to post several messages of condolence on the government memorial page that was created for the late Archbishop.
âForgiveness was his ideology, not perfection. He has never wavered in his quest to build bridges that have been destroyed by injustices everywhere, and for that he deserves a great deal of grace.