The body of anti-apartheid hero, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, lay in state at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town on Thursday, with hundreds of mourners on a queue to pay their respects.
Tutu, a Nobel Peace prize winner, widely revered across racial and cultural divides for his moral rectitude and principled fight against racial inequality and injustice.
Tutu has been lying in state at the cathedral from Thursday through Friday, ahead of a requiem mass funeral service on Saturday, New Year Day, where President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to deliver the lead eulogy.
“I am basically just here to pay my respects,” said Randall Ortel, a medical doctor and one of the first members of the public in line to enter the church. “He is definitely one of my role models and I want to emulate what he has done in his life,” he said.
Tutu’s simple pine coffin with rope handles, adorned with a single bunch of white carnations, was carried into St. George’s, which provided a safe haven for anti-apartheid activists during the repressive white-minority rule.
Tutu, who requested the cheapest coffin and did not want any lavish funeral expense, will be cremated and his remains interred behind the cathedral pulpit he often used to preach against racial injustice.
In Johannesburg, a memorial service was held at St Mary’s Cathedral, where Tutu was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1961 and where he later served as the first Black Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg in 1985.
An interfaith prayer service was also held in Pretoria, the capital city.