South African Archbishop and Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu poses as he arrives for a photocall for the documentary "Children of the Light" as part of the 54st Monte-Carlo Television Festival on June 8, 2014 in Monaco.   AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHE        (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
Look back at the life of Archbishop Desmond Tutu
03:04 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Mourners flocked to St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town on Thursday to pay their respects to anti-apartheid hero Archbishop Desmond Tutu as he lay in state in a simple pine coffin.

The coffin was the “cheapest available” at the request of the Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights pioneer, according to a joint statement from his foundations.

It was transported to the cathedral by a motorcade on Thursday morning. He will remain there through Friday for visitors, with social distancing in place.

 Mourners queue to pay their respects to Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Tutu, whose work made him a revered leader during the struggle to end apartheid in his native South Africa, died on Sunday aged 90.

Memorial services have also been taking place in Johannesburg, ahead of his New Years’ Day funeral on Saturday.

One mourner at the Cathedral on Thursday, Papi Mzizi, told CNN that he had previously met the Archbishop.

The Archbishop is revered as an anti-apartheid hero.

“He was the moral compass of the country if you like,” Mzizi said. On a human level Tutu “never took himself seriously, he was always joking. Always bubbling, always laughing, always telling the truth,” Mzizi added.

“He never took himself higher than anyone else. He loved the people; he always supported the people,” Mzizi said.

In a statement confirming his death on Sunday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his condolences to Tutu’s family and friends, calling him “a patriot without equal.”

 “A man of extraordinary intellect, integrity and invincibility against the forces of apartheid, he was also tender and vulnerable in his compassion for those who had suffered oppression, injustice and violence under apartheid, and oppressed and downtrodden people around the world,” Ramaphosa said.

Tutu had been in ill health for years. In 2013, he underwent tests for a persistent infection, and he was admitted to hospital several times in following years.

For six decades, Tutu – known affectionately as “the Arch” – was one of the primary voices in exhorting the South African government to end apartheid, the country’s official policy of racial segregation. After apartheid ended in the early ’90s and the long-imprisoned Nelson Mandela became president of the country, Tutu was named chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.