Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s daughter has joined those paying tribute to the late anti-apartheid hero, recalling the day he saved a young man from being burned alive as her “proudest moment”.
Nontombi Naomi Tutu said she was shown video of a funeral on the outskirts of Johannesburg in July 1985, where mourners were beating and kicking a defenceless man as he lay on the ground, curled up in a foetal position.
He had been accused of being an apartheid collaborator at a time when South Africa was in a state of emergency and banned liberation parties, like the African National Congress, were trying to overthrow white minority rule.
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The man was doused with petrol and moments away from being “necklaced” – the term used to describe having a tyre placed around your neck, doused with flammable liquid and then set alight – when Mr Tutu and other clergy stepped in to push back the mob.
“To see that and to see him going in – there were so many things that were striking about it,” Nontombi said outside the family residence in Cape Town.
“One was that he had the courage to go into the crowd and say: ‘No, this is not how we do it.’
“But the other is that those young people listened, right, that there was a dignity in our struggle that these young people, they could have said: ‘Who are you to tell us about these people who are selling us out.’
“But there was still that respect for who did it and the other clergy that, you know… Here are clergy people who are asking us to step back from this action.”
She added: “That is my proudest moment, that whenever I think what made me proud of Daddy, that is the thing that I always go to.”
Mr Tutu was known for preaching against the white-minority regime in South Africa, which ended in the 1990s, and often spoke at the funerals of activists killed by the state’s security apparatus.
Nontombi, 61, said she had been with her father the day before he passed away and said he was “ready and he went to meet his God”.
Turning to her relationship with him, she said: “He was a regular father.
“The one thing I have to say, as much as Ma was the disciplinarian, it was when Daddy would say something like: ‘I am so disappointed’. That hit, it was really hard and that was what we never wanted, to disappoint Daddy because it took so much to disappoint him.”
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