South Africa’s anti-apartheid and human rights campaigner – Desmond Tutu has died aged 90

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 December 2021:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and veteran of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid died yesterday Sunday, aged 90 after a long battle with prostate cancer.

Tutu won the Nobel prize in 1984 in recognition of his non-violent opposition to white minority rule. A decade later, he witnessed the end of that regime and chaired a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), set up to unearth atrocities committed under it.

After apartheid ended, he called the Black political elite to account with as much feistiness as he had the Afrikaners, but his enduring spirit of reconciliation in a divided nation always shone through, and tributes to him poured in from around the world on Sunday.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa described Tutu in a televised address as “one of our nation’s finest patriots” adding, “our nation’s loss is indeed a global bereavement.”

U.S. President Joe Biden said Tutu followed his spiritual calling to create a better, freer, and more equal world. “His legacy transcends borders and will echo throughout the ages.”

“Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a mentor, a friend and a moral compass for me and so many others,” former President Barack Obama said. “He never lost his impish sense of humour and willingness to find humanity in his adversaries.”

Tutu died “peacefully” on Sunday morning in a Cape Town nursing home, a representative of his Archbishop Desmond Tutu IP Trust said.

He will lie in state at St George’s on Friday before his funeral service there on Saturday, it said.

Looking frail and in a wheelchair, he was last seen in public in October at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town – a one-time safe haven for anti-apartheid activists – for a service marking his 90th birthday.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the late 1990s and was later hospitalised several times to treat infections associated with treatment for it.

In his final years he also regretted that his dream of a “Rainbow Nation” had yet to come true, and often fell out with erstwhile allies at the ruling African National Congress party over their failures to address the poverty and inequalities that they promised to eradicate.

But Desmond Tutu had his critics who accused him of serious failings in rolling out the recommendations of the TRC Report that could have elevated millions of Black South Africans from abject poverty and economic destitution.

Just five feet five inches (1.68 metres) tall and with an infectious giggle, Tutu travelled tirelessly through the 1980s to become the face of the anti-apartheid movement abroad while many of the leaders of the then rebel ANC, including future President Nelson Mandela, were behind bars.

Long-time friends, Tutu and Mandela lived for a time on the same street in the South African township of Soweto, making Vilakazi Street the only one in the world to have been home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners.

“His most characteristic quality is his readiness to take unpopular positions without fear,” Mandela once said of Tutu. “Such independence of mind is vital to a thriving democracy.”

Having officially retired from public life on his 79th birthday Tutu – who once said of himself: “I wish I could shut up, but I can’t, and I won’t” – continued to speak out on a range of moral issues.

John Steenhuisen, leader of opposition party The Democratic Alliance, said Tutu’s spirit would live on “in our continued effort to build a united, successful, non-racial South Africa for all.”

In 2008, Tutu accused the West of complicity in Palestinian suffering by remaining silent.

In 2013, he declared his support for gay rights, saying he would never “worship a God who is homophobic.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on Sunday hailed Tutu as “a prophet and priest” while Pope Francis offered heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones.

In a letter to Tutu’s daughter Reverend Mpho Tutu, Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, said the world had “lost a great man, who lived a truly meaningful life.”

“We are better because he was here,” said Martin Luther King’s daughter Bernice.

Desmond Tutu was born in 1931 in Klerksdorp, Transvaal. His father was a teacher, and he himself was educated at Johannesburg Bantu High School. After leaving school he trained first as a teacher at Pretoria Bantu Normal College and in 1954 he graduated from the University of South Africa. After three years as a high school teacher he began to study theology, being ordained as a priest in 1960.

The years 1962-66 were devoted to further theological study in England leading up to a Master of Theology. From 1967 to 1972 he taught theology in South Africa before returning to England for three years as the assistant director of a theological institute in London. In 1975 he was appointed Dean of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg, the first black to hold that position.

From 1976 to 1978 he was Bishop of Lesotho, and in 1978 became the first black General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches. Tutu is an honorary doctor of a number of leading universities in the USA, Britain and Germany.

Desmond Tutu has formulated his objective as “a democratic and just society without racial divisions”, and has set forward the following points as minimum demands:

  1. equal civil rights for all
  2. the abolition of South Africa’s passport laws
  3. a common system of education
  4. the cessation of forced deportation from South Africa to the so-called “homelands”

Source Credit: Reuters/Nobel Prize


  1. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was indeed a giant, a colossus, with power and strength which he tempered with intricate diplomacy and humility ; that’s why he was such an irritating thorn in the side of white minority rule in South Africa. Apartheid did not know what to do to him or with him; they would have loved to have him in the bush with a gun for them to mount a surgical operation to get rid of him. But no, he was always in their face, in the flesh and they couldn’t gun him down because the international outcry that would have provoked would have ended Apartheid sooner.

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu fought for mankind and that’s what will remain alive forever, although he is physically gone. Millions around the world saw him as a personal friend without ever meeting him. He used his position to fight for everybody. May the Almighty grant him eternal peace.

  2. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is truly a champion for his people,when black and brown South Africans were held under the clueless Apartheid laws of the white minority government. After the infamous Revonia trials in the 1960s, when Mandela and majority of the ANC leadership were charged and convicted in a sham trial, on sabotage charges and conspiring to overthrow the apartheid regime, and subsequently banning of ANC, sending most of its remaining leaders in to exile in Lusaka Zambia. Men like Oliva Tambo and Thabo Imbeki and others, that have the dubious task of keeping the flames of hope and the fight for racial equality to the international community, the only persons that came to symbolises and highlights and challenge the evils of the Apartheid regime within South Africa in the late 70s and early 80s was Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Tough he was physically small in statue, he used his Anglican Christian faith, to challenge the white minority government that claimed to be Christians themselves.

    How could you claimed to be practicing the Christian faith but you are dehumanising your fellow citizens. That was a question that the apartheid regime leadership found very difficult to justify. He compared the Apartheid government to Hitler’s Nazi Germany that seek racial purity over their fellow citizens. . Indeed it was his mixture of charisma, and speaking the truth to those in authority, that earned him the respect of both friends and foes.And most importantly the noble peace price. Which was a blow to the apartheid regime. He was the ultimate nightmare for PW Boatha’s apartheid regime. At the same time he was not shy of speaking truth to the British government under Maggi Thatcher. And he even labeled former President Reagan a racist, because of his administrations policy of so called “Constructive engagement” with the Apartheid. The policy seems to rest on, is better to engage than confront.

    Back then many people wondered if the black majority of South Africa were oppressing their fellow minority White Citizens, if the Western world would advocate engagement rather than confrontation. After Mandela was elected in 1994,which spelled the end of apartheid and with a black majority government, many people thought Bishop Tutu will retire. In later years he became an advocates against the new ANC government led by Jacob Zuma that were, embroiled in Corruption. Which at some point had a name for it “State capture” like most African countries the experience of black South Africans is like trading one slave master for the other. Only this time is our own black brothers and Sisters. May his soul rest in perfect peace. A real man of the people.

  3. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a global moral and spiritual authority, whose voice and influence went beyond the country and continent of his birth. His legacy of peace building in a still racially divided and unequal South Africa will live on through the ages, symbolising the idea and belief that the rich diversity of humanity does not and need not preclude its fundamental unity and sameness.

    Archbishop Tutu did not seek to abolish human difference and diversity; he recognised, proclaimed and celebrated its incalculable beauty instead, rightly calling it in the specific context of his homeland, a rainbow. He was indeed a rainbow himself, an area of dazzling, composite light, of colourful brightness forcing hitherto dark, vast, unmovable clouds of inhumanity to begin to dissipate. He was and will remain one of Africa’s and indeed humanity’s true greats. May his soul rest in peace.

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