SA leaders reflect on Tutu's passing, say it's a tremendous loss for country

The 90-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate passed away on Sunday.

FILE: Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu appears on a panel at Shared Interests 20th Anniversary Awards Gala at Gotham Hall on 27 February 2014 in New York City. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - News of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s passing has been largely received as the end of an era, marked by leaders who represented the country’s moral compass.

Several leaders across different sectors of society have described his passing as painful and a tremendous loss for South Africa.

The 90-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate passed away on Sunday.

Tutu used his voice to fight against the apartheid regime and contributed towards building a democratic South Africa, including chairing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

GALLERY: The life of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

He continued being a voice speaking truth to power when it came to issues of justice, corruption and equality, which often saw him at odds with the governing party, as he warned that the country would one day turn its back on the African National Congress (ANC).

The Arch – as Desmond Tutu was fondly known - was often described as a thorn in the side of the apartheid government – equally, he became one for the ANC government, this as some felt it betrayed its own mission.

The party in noting his passing said that a great baobab had fallen and that the country had lost a great tower of moral conscience and wisdom.

The Good Party said that he embodied the rule of human reciprocity and ubuntu.

Its leader, Patricia de Lille, was with Tutu’s family when he passed.

"Mama [Leah Tutu, the Archbishop's wife] was prepared but when it did happen we were there to support her," De Lille said.

While some have used this moment to criticise Tutu’s approach to both the TRC and struggle icon Winnie Madikizela Mandela during that period, others have said that it was a complicated era and that leaders of yesteryear did the best that they could.

Tutu’s friendship with the country’s founding president, Nelson Mandela, was well known. Madiba’s foundation, which he continued supporting over the years, said that the Arch’s passing presented an opportunity for deep reflections.

"Let's be more reflective of that legacy. What is it that we need to be holding on to in terms of the morality, in terms of what we need to be holding on to, lessons of truth-finding?" the foundation said.

President Ramaphosa, who announced the passing of the Arch, said that he remained true to his convictions, maintaining his vigour and vigilance as he held leaders to account.

WATCH: 'A giant has fallen': Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu passes away