‘A True South African Giant’: Tributes for Desmond Tutu, a Force for Harmony

“Indeed the big baobab tree has fallen,” the African National Congress said in a statement. “South Africa and the mass democratic movement has lost a tower of moral conscience and an epitome of wisdom.”

The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who had struck up a friendship with Archbishop Tutu, recalled “the spiritual bond” the two shared.

“He was a true humanitarian and a committed advocate of human rights,” he wrote in a letter addressed to Archbishop Tutu’s daughter Mpho Tutu van Furth. He added, “I am convinced the best tribute we can pay him and keep his spirit alive is to do as he did and constantly look to see how we too can be of help to others.”

John Steenhuisen, the leader of the Democratic Alliance, South Africa’s opposition party, wrote on Twitter, “A true South African giant has left us, but his spirit will live on in the everyday kindness we South Africans show each other, and in our continued effort to build a united, successful, nonracial SA for all.”

But Archbishop Tutu’s friends and supporters also reminisced about a man who loved life and who was a devoted partner to his wife, Leah Tutu. One friend of Archbishop Tutu’s, Richard Branson, the British billionaire founder of the Virgin brand, wrote in a tribute about teaching the archbishop to swim.

“He was a fast learner and was soon splashing by us with plenty of giggles,” Mr. Branson said, describing Archbishop Tutu as “one of the most positive, funny, life-affirming people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.”

“He was one of the best among us. He brought light to darkness and lightness to heaviness,” Thuli Madonsela, a former public protector for South Africa, wrote on Twitter.

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