Hugo Gye, Daily Mail (London), December 11, 2013
Anti-apartheid icon Desmond Tutu was burgled while he was paying tribute to Nelson Mandela at yesterday’s memorial service.
The thieves apparently targeted his home in the suburbs of Cape Town in the knowledge that he was more than 800 miles away at the ceremony in Johannesburg.
It is the second time in four months that the former Archbishop of Cape Town has been the victim of burglars.
‘I can confirm that there was a burglary last night,’ his aide Roger Friedman said today.
‘We are not able to tell exactly what was stolen, the archbishop and his wife were not at home. The house was not pillaged.’
Police said in a statement that the crime took place at some point between 7pm and 9pm on Tuesday.
‘At this stage we cannot give further details, as the investigation into the matter is still ongoing,’ a spokesman said. ‘No arrests have been made as yet.’
Officers refused to confirm whether or not anything had been taken from the home of Mr Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.
In the previous break-in, on August 7, thieves broke in to the house while the bishop and his wife Leah were sleeping, and took a number of small possessions.
Burglaries are fairly common in South Africa, where they are known as ‘home invasions’, due to the country’s extreme inequality and relatively weak government.
Mr Tutu, 82, gave the closing prayers at yesterday’s ceremony to the former president in Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium.
He urged South Africans to follow Mandela’s example, saying: ‘I want to show the world we can come out here and celebrate the life of an icon.’
The memorial also featured a well-received speech by U.S. President Barack Obama, and tributes from other world leaders who heralded Mandela as one of the greatest figures of the 20th century.
However, the news that Mr Tutu was burgled at the same time is just the latest in a string of minor embarrassments connected to yesterday’s service.
Mr Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron came under fire for taking a ‘selfie’ photograph with Denmark’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt, while South African president Jacob Zuma was repeatedly booed at the ceremony, held in a stadium where a third of the seats were left empty thanks to foul weather.
And today it was claimed that a sign language interpreter who stood next to the podium throughout the service was in fact a fraud, waving his hands around without making any sense for deaf people.