Anti-apartheid legend, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu, has passed on. Tutu, the last of the surviving South African laureates of the Nobel Peace Prize, died yesterday in Cape Town at 90. His funeral has been set for January 1, according to his foundation.

Expectedly, tributes have poured in from world leaders, including President Muhammadu Buhari, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, United States President Joe Biden, Queen Elizabeth, and former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Buhari, on behalf of government and people of Nigeria, condoled with Ramaphosa, South Africans, and the global Christian body, particularly Anglican Communion, over the passing of Tutu.

In a statement by his special adviser, Femi Adesina, Buhari believed the death of the iconic teacher, human rights activist, leader of thought, scholar and philanthropist, further created a void in a world in dare need of wisdom, integrity, courage and sound reasoning. He said these were qualities that the Nobel Peace Prize Winner, 1984, typified and exemplified in words and actions.

As a South African, global citizen and renowned world leader, the president affirmed that the historic role Tutu played in the fight against apartheid, enduring physical assaults, jail terms and prolonged exile. This had taken him beyond the pulpit to global, political relevance, and his position, under President Nelson Mandela, in heading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission provided healing and direction for his country and the world.

Buhari also commiserated with Leah Tutu, the spouse of the spiritual leader and lifelong partner in the struggle against injustice, corruption and inequality, the Tutu family, board and staff of Desmond and Le ah Tutu Legacy Foundation, Elders and Nobel Laureate Group. Buhari said he took solace in the fact that the voice of the scholar and teacher, his published works, and inspirational quotes will resonate through generations, bringing more light and clarity to religious diversity, democracy and good governance.
Ramaphosa, who paid tribute to the eminent religious leader, expressed his heartfelt condolences to ma’am Leah Tutu, and the Tutu family.

The South African president stated, “The passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is another chapter of bereavement in our nation’s farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans, who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa.”

Ramaphosa described Tutu as a patriot without equal, a leader of principle and a pragmatist, who gave meaning to the biblical insight that faith without work is dead. He added that the late archbishop was a man of extraordinary intellect, integrity and invincibility against the forces of apartheid.

He said the anti-apartheid hero was tender and vulnerable in his compassion for those who had suffered oppression, injustice and violence under apartheid and oppressed and downtrodden people worldwide.

As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission chairperson, Tutu, he said, articulated the universal outrage at the ravages of apartheid and touchingly and profoundly demonstrated the depth of meaning of ubuntu, reconciliation and forgiveness.

Ramaphosa said Tutu also placed his extensive academic achievements at the service of black South African struggle and the “service of the cause for social and economic justice the world over.”

From the “pavements of resistance in South Africa to the pulpits of the world’s great cathedrals and places of worship, and the prestigious setting of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony,” Tutu distinguished himself as a non-sectarian, inclusive champion of universal human rights.

In his richly inspiring, yet, challenging life, Tutu overcame tuberculosis, the brutality of the apartheid security forces and the intransigence of successive apartheid regimes, Ramaphosa said, adding that neither teargas, nor security agents could intimidate him or deter him from his steadfast belief in South Africa’s liberation.

The anti-apartheid hero, he maintained, remained true to his convictions during South Africa’s democratic dispensation, maintaining his vigour and vigilance as he held leadership and the burgeoning institutions of “our democracy to account in his inimitable, inescapable and always fortifying way,” Ramaphosa said.

He added, “We share this moment of deep loss with Mam Leah Tutu, the archbishop’s soulmate and source of strength and insight, who has made a monumental contribution in her own right to our freedom and to the development of our democracy. We pray that Archbishop Tutu’s soul will rest in peace but that his spirit will stand sentry over the future of our nation.”

US President Joe Biden said on Sunday he was “heartbroken” to learn of the passing of Tutu. Biden, however, said the South African archbishop’s legacy transcends borders and will “echo throughout the ages.”

In a joint statement with First Lady Jill Biden, the president praised the “courage and moral clarity” of the anti-apartheid icon who has died aged 90.

Describing the archbishop as an inspiration to generations across the world”, Secretary-general of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, said he was saddened by Tutu’s death.
Guterres said, “During the darkest days of apartheid, he was a shining beacon for social justice, freedom and non-violent resistance.

“Archbishop Tutu’s relentless determination to build global solidarity for a free and democratic South Africa was fittingly recognised by the Nobel Committee in its decision to award him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

“As Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he made an immeasurable contribution to ensuring a peaceful, yet just transition to a democratic South Africa.”

Queen Elizabeth said she was “deeply saddened” by the death of Tutu. The Queen called a “man who tirelessly championed human rights in South Africa and across the world.”

She added, “I remember with fondness my meetings with him and his great warmth and humour,” she said in a statement, adding that his death “will be felt by the people of South Africa, and by so many people in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and across the Commonwealth, where he was held in such high affection and esteem.”

On his part, Obasanjo, recalled Tutu’s role in the cancellation of Nigeria’s debt during his tenure, adding that his death was a personal loss to him.

Obasanjo, in a condolence message to the South African president, said, “Over the years, Reverend Tutu had shown focused, credible, bold, sensitive and purposeful leadership not just to members of the Anglican Church but to all Christians.

“Tutu had been part of building and strengthening the Anglican Church, and its eminent place in the Church system in South Africa today is not unrelated to his selfless service and leadership.

“I acknowledge late Tutu’s uncommon solidarity and the deep passion with which he had argued Nigeria’s case for full debt cancellation by the contents of his letter to Mr. Gordon Brown, the then United Kingdom’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, during my administration as the President of Nigeria.

“This heroic advocacy effort of his with respect to Nigeria’s indebtedness to the Paris Club on behalf of Nigeria was very much in his character.

“Reverend Tutu was a patriotic and highly respected Teacher, Preacher, Intercessor and Field Commander of the Lord’s Army. He symbolised one of our finest examples of how a life truly dedicated to our Saviour Jesus Christ can make a difference.

“He had been a difference-maker for his family, his friends, his flock, his community, the Church, the Republic of South Africa and, indeed, the world.”

Abiodun, who expressed grief over Tutu’s death, said in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin, that he was shocked by the death of the anti-apartheid hero, who stood stoutly against imperialism and segregation.

Eulogising Tutu as a loud voice against suppression of black South Africans throughout the apartheid era in his country, and for giving support and playing a pivotal role in ensuring South Africa regained self rule, Abiodun said the black nation would miss him, especially, his altruistic disposition and wise counsel.

The governor stated, “Desmond Tutu’s legacy is moral strength, moral courage and clarity. He felt with the people. In public and alone, he cried because he felt people’s pain. And he laughed – no, not just laughed, he cackled with delight when he shared their joy.

“Though he was a South African, he defended the cause of Africa and blacks in the diaspora. He preached peace, lived peace and shared the words of peace. Even, when apartheid was raging in his country of birth, the late Tutu urged his countrymen and other fighters against white imperialism, to use peace as a vehicle to champion their cause.

“In fact, his stance against xenophobia in his country cannot be forgotten. He will not only be missed by South Africa, but the whole of Africa.”

Tutu: S’Africa’s Most Outspoken ‘Prophet’ against Apartheid

Born on October 7, 1931, in Klerksdorp, west of Johannesburg, Tutu has been described as South Africa’s most prominent opponent of apartheid.

Tutu was an embodiment of faith in action, as he spoke boldly against racism, injustice, corruption, and oppression, not just in apartheid South Africa but also wherever in the world he saw wrongdoing, especially, when it impacted the most vulnerable and voiceless in society.

The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation stated that while Tutu was “first and always” an Anglican priest, who made no secret of his deep dependence on the inner life of disciplined “prayer, his faith burst the confines of denomination and religion, embracing all who shared his passion for justice and love.”

With political leaders in prison and exile, Tutu, as general secretary of the South African Council of Churches and later, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, became the country’s most “outspoken prophet for justice.” He refused to be cowed despite consistent smears and vicious intimidation by the apartheid regime.

Whether from the pulpit or in the streets, on trial or confronting cabinet ministers in the Union Buildings, Tutu spoke with a fierce moral and spiritual authority that faced down his adversaries and slowly won their grudging respect, the foundation stated

With the freeing of Nelson Mandela and other leaders, the unbanning of political movements, the return of the exiles, South Africa’s first non-racial democratic elections, to move the country towards healing, Mandela asked Tutu to guide the delicate but often controversial work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Presiding over months of agonising testimony and horrifying revelations, he became “chief pastor” to South Africa’s painful transition. Many, who had dismissed him as a ‘rabble-rouser’, were moved by his deeply compassionate response to apartheid’s victims and even those of their torturers, who showed remorse.

While Tutu helped shepherd the democratic dispensation into being, he was unafraid to remind the new governing party of its moral responsibilities toward all South Africans and its growing failings. He was realistic about politicians’ weaknesses but expressed both sadness and anger as corruption took hold in the African National Congress (ANC).

The wider world showered him with honours, most notably the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. After retirement, his primary international responsibility was with a group of fellow Nobel Peace laureates and statespersons known as ‘The Elders,’ committed to global problem solving and peace-making.

Officially “retiring” from public life on his 79th birthday, Tutu continued to speak out on a range of ethical and moral issues: illegal arms deals, xenophobia, oppressed people in Palestine, respect for the rule of law, HIV/Aids, Tibet, China, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and LGBTQI+ rights.

He also loudly campaigned for gentler stewardship of the earth and against the coming ravages of climate change, an authentic example of how human survival rested on their ubuntu-spirited ability to cooperate and work together.

Tutu spent the closing years of his life increasingly devoted to prayer and contemplation in the Milnerton home he and his wife shared.

Stated the foundation, “We, at the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, mourn his passing and extend deep sympathy to Mrs Nomalizo Leah Tutu, siblings Trevor Thamsanqa Tutu, Naomi Nontombi Tutu, Theresa Thandeka Tutu, Mpho Tutu van Furth and their families. We commit ourselves to continue telling the story and emulating the example of this son of Africa, who became an inspiring sign of peace, hope and justice across the world.”

According to Britannica, during South Africa’s moves toward democracy in the early 1990s, Tutu propagated the idea of South Africa as “the Rainbow Nation,” and he continued to comment on events with varying combinations of trenchancy and humour.

His father was an elementary school principal, and his mother worked cooking and cleaning at a school for the blind. The South Africa of Tutu’s youth was rigidly segregated, with Black Africans denied the right to vote and forced to live in specific areas. Although as a child, Tutu understood that he was treated worse than white children based on nothing other than the colour of his skin, he resolved to make the best of the situation and still managed a happy childhood.

Achievement.org narrated that the Apartheid government did not extend citizenship rights to black South Africans. The National Party had risen to power on the promise of instituting a system of apartheid — complete separation of the races. All South Africans were legally assigned to an official racial group; each race was restricted to separate living areas and separate public facilities.

Only white South Africans were permitted to vote in national elections. Black South Africans were only represented in remote “tribal homelands ” local governments, with interracial marriage forbidden, and blacks legally barred from certain jobs and prohibited from forming labour unions. They needed passports for travel within the country; critics of the system could be banned from speaking in public and subjected to house arrest.

Achievement.org noted that when the Apartheid government ordained a deliberately inferior education system for black students, Tutu refused to cooperate. He could no longer work as a teacher, but he was determined to do something to improve the life of his disenfranchised people. It added that on the advice of his bishop, he began to study for the Anglican priesthood.

Tutu was ordained as a priest in the Anglican church in 1960. At the same time, the South African government began a programme of forced relocation of black Africans and Asians from newly designated “white” areas. Millions were deported to the “homelands,” and only permitted to return as “guest workers.”

“Tutu became increasingly frustrated with the racism corrupting all aspects of South African life under apartheid. In 1948, the National Party won control of the government and codified the nation’s long-present segregation and inequality into the official, rigid policy of apartheid.

“In 1953, the government passed the Bantu Education Act, a law that lowered the standards of education for Black South Africans to ensure that they only learned what was necessary for a life of servitude. The government spent one-tenth as much money on the education of a Black student as on the education of a white one, and Tutu’s classes were highly overcrowded. No longer willing to participate in an educational system explicitly designed to promote inequality, he quit teaching in 1957.”

It further revealed that in 1958, Tutu enrolled at St. Peter’s Theological College in Johannesburg. He was ordained as an Anglican deacon in 1960 and as a priest in 1961. In 1962, he went to London, where he received his master’s of theology from King’s College in 1966 and returned to teach at the Federal Theological Seminary at Alice in the Eastern Cape and serve as the chaplain of the University of Fort Hare. He also taught at the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland.

In 1984, Desmond Tutu was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize of 1984 to Tutu made him the most visible representative of the struggle in the Republic of South Africa against apartheid, the system by which the minority white population of South Africa dominated the black majority until 1994. It allowed whites, who constituted 20 per cent of the population, to reserve for themselves about 87 per cent of the land, most natural resources, and all meaningful political power.

Blacks, who found themselves in lands reserved for whites were arbitrarily made citizens of one of ten homelands, which the white government (but virtually no one else) called nations. To remove Blacks from areas reserved for whites, the government forcibly evicted many from their homes, though their families had in some cases occupied them for decades.

Blacks in the nation were relegated to the lowest-paying jobs, denied access to most public accommodations (though this policy was relaxed somewhat in the 1970s), and had drastically lower life expectancies than whites. In contrast, South African whites had one of the highest living standards in the world.

“In 2007, Desmond Tutu joined former South African President Mandela, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and former Irish President Mary Robinson to form The Elders, a private initiative mobilising the experience of senior world leaders outside of the conventional diplomatic process. Tutu was named to chair the group.

“Carter and Tutu have travelled together to Darfur, Gaza, and Cyprus to resolve long-standing conflicts,” noted Achievement.org, which added that, “Desmond Tutu’s historic accomplishments — and his continuing efforts to promote peace in the world — were formally recognised by the United States in 2009, when President Barack Obama named him to receive the nation’s highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”

Tutu authored or co-authored numerous publications, including The Divine Intention (1982), a collection of his lectures; Hope and Suffering (1983), a collection of his sermons; No Future Without Forgiveness (1999), a memoir from his time as head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time (2004), a collection of personal reflections; and Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes All the Difference (2010), reflections on his beliefs about human nature.

In addition to the Nobel Prize, Tutu received numerous honours, including the US Presidential Medal of Freedom (2009), an award from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation that recognised his lifelong commitment to “speaking truth to power” (2012) and the Templeton Prize (2013).

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