Archbishop Desmond Tutu salutes ‘magician’ Nelson Mandela who healed the nation

South Africa’s Anglican leader fondly remembers his good friend

Johannesburg

Nelson Mandela spent his first night of freedom at the home of Desmond Tutu. He had not wanted to stay at Bishopscourt, he recalled later, because the affluent suburb was “not an area where I would have been permitted to leave before I went to prison. I thought it would have sent the wrong signal to spend my first night in a posh white area.”

But by 1990, things had changed in the 27 years that Mr Mandela had spent incarcerated at Robben Island. Bishopscourt was still posh, but it also had non-white residents, at the insistence of the first black archbishop of the Anglican Church in South Africa and Nobel Prize winner who had earned great respect for his implacable, non-violent campaign against apartheid.

Last night, Archbishop Tutu presided over a remembrance ceremony for his house guest that night 23 year ago which was anything but maudlin with jokes and waves of laughter.

Steadfast supporters in the fight against apartheid, including the singer Peter Gabriel and Mary Robinson, the former Irish President were resoundingly cheered.

Madiba, said the Archbishop, was “a magician who had turned South Africa, a poisonous caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly”.

He described the brutality Mr Mandela had endured in prison leaving him with damaged lungs and eyesight. “But he came out of prison to set us free from hatred and racism. The world expected a bloodbath and atrocities, what we now have, instead, is this wonderful multicultural rainbow.”

There was a slight pause in the reaction of the audience when the Archbishop declared that Winnie Mandela too should be praised for the support she had given her former husband during the long years of struggle, and this was followed by generous applause.

The Archbishop claimed that he had forced Mr Mandela “to make an honest woman” of his last wife Graça Machel. “I told him you are setting a bad example. You should not be shacked up, marry her.”

If Mr Mandela was the leading political force in the campaign for emancipation, Desmond Tutu provided the moral compass, passionately declaring that segregation and discrimination were against God’s will, helping to galvanise swathes of religious opinion across the world against the racist regime.

Mr Mandela had stressed how much he valued the Archbishop’s friendship describing him as “sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid and seldom without humour.”  The feeling was reciprocated, but the cleric was not uncritical, speaking out stridently over the years against senior figures in the African National Congress, some of them close allies of Mr Mandela, also affectionately known by his tribal name Madiba.

Mr Mandela himself must not be adored on a pedestal, the cleric stressed: “One has to be careful that we don’t hagiographic. Because one of the wonderful things about him is that he is so human. He is aware of that, in a way, there are feet of clay.”

He said Mr Mandela was not without failings: “his chief weakness was his steadfast loyalty to his organization and to his colleagues. He retained in his cabinet underperforming, frankly incompetent ministers who should have been dismissed. This tolerance of mediocrity arguably laid the seeds for greater levels of mediocrity and corruptibility that were to come.”

It was a measure of the esteem that Mr Mandela nevertheless held the Archbishop in that he asked him to head the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up to investigate crimes committed at the time of apartheid. The decision to allow amnesty for perpetrators, mainly agents of the white government, some of whom had carried out the most vicious offences, drew criticism, but the TRC became a model for post-conflict scenarios around the world.

The Archbishop pointed out that it was the example of Mr Mandela’s magnanimity which helped shape his own actions: “He lived out the understanding that an enemy is a friend waiting to be made, and so could have his white former jailer attend his Presidential inauguration as a VIP guest; and have Dr Percy Yutar, who was the prosecutor in the Rivonia trial when he was sentenced to life imprisonment, the Dr Yutar who had wanted the death sentence, come to lunch with him at the Presidency; and could visit the widow of Dr Verwoerd, the high priest and architect of apartheid, for tea. The former terrorist could have those who used to think of him as Public Enemy No 1 eating out of his hand.”

Mr Mandela’s successors in the ANC had faced withering attacks by the Archbishop who charged that they “stopped the gravy train just long enough to get on themselves”. He had opposed Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s current president, who had been accused of sexual crimes and corruption, because of his “moral failings”. His criticisms of the government have ranged from accusing it of failing to help the poorer sections of the community, to failing to provide enough protection for migrant workers suffering from xenophobia.

The Archbishop has renewed his criticism of the ANC this year, especially over what he claimed were his efforts to silence critics, a betrayal of the ideals of the anti-apartheid movement: “If we have indeed become a nation that fears the consequences of not kowtowing to the government, we have clearly taken a wrong turn”, said the man who accompanied Nelson Mandela on some of the most difficult periods of the long walk to freedom

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Extras
indybest
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Semi Senior Accountant - Music

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful, Central London bas...

English teachers required in Lowestoft

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified English tea...

Business Development Director - Interior Design

£80000 - £100000 per annum + competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment...

Sales Director, Media Sponsorship

£60000 - £65000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A globally successful media and ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits