In a warm remembrance speech, former first lady Graca Machel payed tribute to the late Desmond Tutu in a ceremony held in Cape Town on Thursday, 30 December 2021.
She called him a kind of a spiritual leader to her.
“Arch was always consistent in telling us that there is always goodness in every single human being,” she told mourners.
“He is the last of that generation and when we celebrate his life, we are also celebrating all the other leaders, which South Africa has been able to produce. This is a country where you find outstanding leadership, which is hardly concentrated in one single country.”
Graca says Tutu gave her guidance.
“When I say he was my spiritual leader some people might not know exactly what I mean those days I was not associated with Madiba, Madiba was my leader, very far from me. But I had to look into his eyes the eyes of the arch and say give me the guidance and ever since he held me by hand.”
The widow of former president Nelson Mandela, recalled how she once turned to Tutu for advice after being left traumatised during visits to Rwanda and Sierra Leone. Machel visited a camp with children in Sierra Leone where one of them proudly confessed to having killed people.
“I was so disturbed and I came back. I called Arch (Desmond Tutu) and I said, ‘I don’t know what to do with this. I can’t deal with this.’ He asked me to explain what I had witnessed,” she said.
Machel says Tutu then prayed with her then told her there is some level of good in people, regardless of their actions. He then challenged her to find ways to bring out the good in those very children she had met.
Tutu, who died at age 90 and will be cremated on Saturday, New Year’s Day. His ashes will then be interred at St. George’s cathedral in Cape Town.