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City of Cape Town proposes historic building be renamed as 'Desmond and Leah Tutu House'


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City of Cape Town proposes historic building be renamed as 'Desmond and Leah Tutu House'

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu
Photo by Reuters
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

29th August 2023

By: News24Wire


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The City of Cape Town's Naming Committee recommended to the mayor, Geordin Hill-Lewis, that the Old Granary building be renamed "Desmond and Leah Tutu House".

The Old Granary building, situated at 11 Buitenkant Street in Zonnebloem, was initially constructed between 1808 and 1813.


Over the past 200 years, it has been used as a bakery, granary, jail for women, customs house, a court, a police office and public works department offices.

In 2015, the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation co-funded the refurbishment, to allow it to use the space as a peace centre, archive centre, museum and an office space. 


The deputy mayor and the chairperson of the Naming Committee, Eddie Andrews, said: "We fully support this initiative, and we have proposed to the mayor that we rename the City-owned building to 'Desmond and Leah Tutu House'; and that the City's Public Participation Unit (PPU) commences with a participation process to give residents, and interested and affected parties the opportunity to comment on this proposal."

Once the mayor has accepted the Naming Committee's recommendation, the PPU will commence the participation process.

"We will let the public know once the proposal is open for comment and how and where to participate. I want to encourage residents in advance to make use of this opportunity to be involved in this very important process," Andrews said.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu died, at the age of 90, in December 2021. 

In late 2015, he offered to contribute R12-million towards the granary's refurbishment.

He also agreed to take on the lease of the building as a home for the Tutu Foundation Centre.

The City, in turn, contributed a further R30-million towards the restoration, which began in late 2016.

According to the proposal tabled at the committee on Monday, the City said, "The renaming of the building has been proposed to honour and memorialise the life and work of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his wife, Leah Tutu. They have made notable contributions to the political and socio-cultural identity of Cape Town and have been an inspiration to Capetonians and South Africans."

The City's mayoral committee member for economic development, James Vos, said the proposal to change the name was set in motion by the Economic Growth Directorate, which oversees the management of the Old Granary building.

"Our vision is to carry on the legacy of Desmond and Leah Tutu, who have not only made notable contributions to the political and socio-cultural identity of Cape Town and South Africa, but are global icons for virtue and fortitude of character," he said. 

Dr Mamphela Ramphele, the chairperson of the Archbishop Desmond Tutu IP Trust, told News24 they were grateful to the City of Cape Town's Naming Committee for its proposal to rename the historic Old Granary building in Cape Town, the "Desmond & Leah Tutu House".

"Most of the building is now occupied by the Archbishop Desmond Tutu IP Trust and the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, with additional space used by the City. Renaming this historic edifice built by slaves after the Arch, who played a leading role in the struggle against oppression in South Africa and worldwide, is a delicious irony," she said.

Ramphele said the Arch would have said it was emblematic of God's sense of humour. 

"The Arch and Mrs Tutu moved to Cape Town in 1986, on his appointment as Archbishop, and quickly developed a love affair with the City. The Old Granary Building may be losing its name, but it will not be lost to the people of Cape Town," she added.


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