Cape Town: South Africa`s Desmond Tutu on Friday
celebrated his 80th birthday in the cathedral where he once
rallied against white rule, using his famed charisma to soothe
raw feelings over the Dalai Lama`s absence.
St George`s Cathedral, where Tutu served as the Anglican
archbishop of Cape Town until 1996, was filled with family and
well-wishers from U2 frontman and campaigner Bono to Graca
Machel, the wife of Nelson Mandela.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe sat in the front pew
across from Tutu`s family, but notably absent was President
Jacob Zuma whose government the "Arch" has accused of
kowtowing to China by not granting entry to the Dalai Lama.
Zuma offered a conciliatory branch to Tutu today with a
birthday message saying that the activist plays an important
role in South Africa, and that his efforts had aided the
"Archbishop Tutu has a special place in the hearts of our
people for the manner in which he stood up against the
apartheid state, speaking out against injustice and
oppression," he said.
"As one of our four Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, we
respect him, love him and always welcome his counsel on
Tutu also reached out to Motlanthe, hugging him in front
of the church.
"Thank you so very much for coming, despite some of the
hiccups that we have had," Tutu told Motlanthe, in the only
reference to the visa drama.
Tutu`s outrage at Zuma -- whom he has criticised for graft
scandals that never made it to trial -- boiled over again this
week when the Dalai Lama cancelled his planned visit for the
birthday, saying he had not received a visa in time.
"I am warning you that we will pray as we prayed for the
downfall of the apartheid government, we will pray for the
downfall of a government that misrepresents us," Tutu said on
The Tibetan spiritual leader, a longtime friend of Tutu`s
and a fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner, is now set to give a
speech tomorrow by video link.
The tensions of the week, which have dominated South
Africa`s front pages, were pushed to the side today as the
pews of St George`s filled and birthday presents piled at the
Combining African drums and incense-laden church ceremony,
the multi-lingual service paid tribute to the man regarded as
South Africa`s moral conscience with the laughter and warmth
that he is famed for.