In cricket speak, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s 90th birthday – celebrated in South Africa and abroad on Thursday – would mark a good innings.
A sports fanatic who has consistently thrown his weight behind every local sports team – from the Springboks, Proteas to Bafana Bafana – Tutu’s name has not only been synonymous with politics, but also the country’s story of triumph.
Former anti-apartheid campaigner Saki Macozoma recounted one of his fondest memories of the world-acclaimed cleric – being next to him in Zurich for the announcement of the host country for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
“In Zurich, I was sitting next to him when [former Fifa president] Sepp Blatter uttered the words: ‘Afrique du Sud’ [South Africa].
“Tutu turned to me instinctively and we had a little dance.”
Macozoma said he was “proud to be a member of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation”.
“Our mission is to preserve and make accessible the legacy of the archbishop to future generations of the world,” said Macozoma of Tutu, who made it possible for him to study in America.
He first met the “Arch” as one of the interviewers for the American Government Scholarship to the US in 1982 – and Macozoma got it.
“I then met him in New York when he was a visiting professor at Hunter College. He asked me to come and work with him in the office of the general secretary at the SA Council of Churches, which I joined in 1986.
“But within a few months, he had been appointed the Archbishop of Cape Town and head of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa lauded Tutu for his role as “a fighter in the cause for human rights, equality and social justice in the 59 years since his ordination”.
In a written message to Tutu, he said: “You continue to remind us that fellowship, solidarity, charity and compassion for the vulnerable, are values common to us all and we should strive to live by them each day.”
Acknowledging the moral and ethical guidance Tutu has provided to the nation after liberation from apartheid, Ramaphosa said: “At times when we found ourselves losing our way, you have taken us well to task. For nearly
three decades, yours has been a voice of conscience, guiding us and motivating us to do better.”
The ANC celebrated Tutu “who has never been a bystander to history, but dedicated his life to the service of the people of SAa, leading tirelessly from the front”.