Archbishop Desmond Tutu: tributes paid to ‘a moral giant’ after anti-apartheid hero dies – latest updates


Powered by article titled “Archbishop Desmond Tutu: tributes paid to ‘a moral giant’ after anti-apartheid hero dies – latest updates” was written by Miranda Bryant, for on Sunday 26th December 2021 11.15 UTC

David Beresford reported from South Africa for the Guardian in 1986 when Tutu was elected the first black archbishop of Cape Town, becoming leader of South Africa’s two million-member Anglican church.

In St George’s Cathedral, Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, offered prayers for “my brother”, P W Botha, and repeated a call for the state president to start negotiations with “the authentic representatives” of the people to end apartheid.


Scenes from St George’s cathedral in Cape Town:

A mourner puts flowers next to a portrait of Desmond Tutu outside St George’s cathedral in Cape Town.
A mourner puts flowers next to a portrait of Desmond Tutu outside St George’s cathedral in Cape Town. Photograph: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images
Flowers next to a portrait of Desmond Tutu outside St. George’s cathedral in Cape Town today.
Flowers next to a portrait of Desmond Tutu outside St. George’s cathedral in Cape Town today. Photograph: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

Tutu foundation pays tribute to ‘moral giant’

The leaders of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation said that Tutu was “moral giant” and “a living embodiment of faith in action”.

Niclas Kjellström-Matseke, the foundation’s chair, and CEO Piyushi Kotecha, said:

South Africa and the world have lost one of the great spirits and moral giants of our age.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu passed away on the morning of 26 December 2021 in Cape Town at the age of 90.

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

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.

Here’s the full statement.

‘We love you Arch and we will miss you,’ says Cape Town mayor

The mayor of Cape Town, Geordin Hill-Lewis, has paid tribute to Tutu, saying: “We love you Arch and we will miss you”.

The mayor of Cape Town, Geordin Hill-Lewis, has invited residents to write remembrance messages for Tutu.

Mourners gather at cathedral and Tutu’s home and cricketers wear black armbands

Mourners have gathered outside Tutu’s former parish in Cape Town, St George’s cathedral, and outside his home with flowers, reports AFP.

“It’s very very sad he died. He was such a good man,” retired accountant Diane Heard told the news agency.

Meanwhile, the South African cricket team wore black armbands to honour Tutu in their first test against India.

South African cricketer Kagiso Rabada wearing a black armband to mourn the death of Desmond Tutu today during a match against India at SuperSport Park in Centurion, South Africa.
South African cricketer Kagiso Rabada wearing a black armband to mourn the death of Desmond Tutu today during a match against India at SuperSport Park in Centurion, South Africa. Photograph: Phill Magakoe/AFP/Getty Images

AFP reports that Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, said: “Tutu inspired a generation of African leaders who embraced his non-violent approaches in the liberation struggle”.

The UK’s Labour leader, Keir Starmer, said Tutu’s legacy “echoes through generations”.

He said:

Desmond Tutu was a tower of a man and a leader of moral activism.

He dedicated his life to tackling injustice and standing up for the oppressed. His impact on the world crosses borders and echoes through generations.

May he rest in peace.

UK PM says he is ‘deeply saddened’ by Tutu’s death

The British prime minister, Boris Johnson, has said that he is “deeply saddened” by the death of archbishop Desmond Tutu and that he would be remembered for his leadership and humour.

He said:

I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

He was a critical figure in the fight against apartheid and in the struggle to create a new South Africa – and will be remembered for his spiritual leadership and irrepressible good humour.

South African online newspaper TimesLIVE reports that police have cordoned off sections near Tutu’s home in Milnerton, Cape Town, and that preparations are “underway” at the city’s civic centre for a briefing by Tutu’s family members, foundation and government and city officials.


Tutu a ‘beacon of light’ for human rights around the world, says Amnesty International South Africa

Amnesty International in South Africa has described Tutu as a “beacon of light” for human rights globally and “a much needed moral compass” for South Africa.

Shenilla Mohamed, Amnesty International South Africa’s executive director, said:

His commitment to equality and rights for all served as a much needed moral compass during the turbulent apartheid era. Even after South Africa obtained freedom in 1994, the Archbishop continued to be an outspoken, passionate human rights activist.

Mohamed added:

He was never afraid to call out human rights violators no matter who they were and his legacy must be honoured by continuing his work to ensure equality for all.

The organisation sent condolences to Mam Leah Tutu, the archbishop’s wife, and his family and friends.


The UK foreign secretary, Liz Truss, tweeted:

Saddened to hear of archbishop Desmond Tutu’s death. He was a driving force behind ending apartheid in South Africa and a worthy winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

My thoughts are with the people of South Africa.

Strictly Come Dancing stars Oti and Motsi Mabuse, who grew up in South Africa, also paid tribute to Tutu.

Oti, a dancer on the BBC show, wrote on Twitter that his death was “sad news” and a “major loss” for South Africa.

Her sister Motsi, who is a Strictly judge, shared a Tutu quote:


Tutu foundation say they are ‘devastated’ by archbishop’s death, but say it has ‘strengthened our resolve to spread his warmth and compassion’

The Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation, founded by the retired archbishop and his wife, said:

We are devastated that the Arch is no longer with us, but his passing has strengthened our resolve to spread his warmth and compassion even further afield.

In more reaction to Tutu’s death, Basim Naeem, a senior official for Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas, told Reuters:

Our Palestinian people lost a strong supporter of their march towards freedom and independence. Father Desmond Tutu spent his entire life struggling against racism and defending human rights and especially on the Palestinian land.

Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, told Reuters:

Father Desmond Tutu was one of the biggest supporters of the Palestinian cause. He had always advocated the rights of the Palestinians to gain their freedom and rejected Israeli occupation and Apartheid.

Thebe Ikalafeng, founder of Brand Africa, told Sky that Tutu “represented the goodness of humanity”.

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has paid tribute to Tutu:

Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King, said:

Archbishop of Canterbury says Tutu was ‘a prophet and priest’

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, tweeted:

He added:

In a statement he said:

The death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu (always known as Arch) is news that we receive with profound sadness – but also with profound gratitude as we reflect upon his life.

My prayers and condolences are with his family and all who loved him, with the Anglican Church of the Province of Southern Africa, and all of the people of South Africa.

Arch’s love transformed the lives of politicians and priests, township dwellers and world leaders. The world is different because of this man.


World feels ‘smaller’ without Tutu, says archbishop of York

Stephen Cottrell, the archbishop of York, said in a statement:

One of the great and abiding images of the second half of the 20th century was Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela dancing in the courtroom at the end of the closing session of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Cape Town. Nelson Mandela asked his friend Desmond Tutu to chair the Commission.

It was a bold and creative way of helping a nation divided brutally between black and white learn to live in glorious technicolour by facing up to the horrors of its past and by putting the Christian imperative for forgiveness alongside the need for truth as the only way of achieving reconciliation.

And Desmond Tutu was asked to chair it because this incredibly joyful little disciple of Jesus Christ was one of the few people in South Africa other than Nelson Mandela himself, who could unite the nation and carry the trust of everyone.

In this respect, he was a giant.

The world itself feels a little smaller without him. His expansive vision of how the Christian faith shapes the whole of life has touched many hearts and changed many lives. The Anglican church in particular gives thanks for one of its greatest saints. But Christian people everywhere, and all people of goodwill, will today be mourning the loss of someone who showed the world what following Jesus looks like and where it leads.

Our prayers today are particularly with his family and with our sisters and brothers in the Anglican Church of South Africa. When I go to my chapel this morning to celebrate the Eucharist on this, Saint Stephen’s day, I may dance a little jig in thankful memory of this wonderful human being. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Extracts from Gary Younge’s 2009 interview with Tutu:

“In many ways, when you’re a Nobel peace laureate, you have an obligation to humankind, to society,” Tutu says in his slow, deep, deliberate voice. “And you are able to say things that people might take more seriously than if you were not a Nobel laureate. And with a world that faces so much conflict and suffering, there seems to be a place for those who just might help us change tack. But I am still deeply longing for a quieter life. And I really mean it when I say it. I’m really going to try. My wife says that she’s heard me say that several times. I will try next year and be ruthless. But what do you say when the prime minister of the Solomon Islands writes and says, please, could you come and be with us when we launch our truth and reconciliation commission? It seems so rude, so hard-hearted in a way, to say no and have them think, ‘We are a small nation. Perhaps we don’t count for a great deal.’ If you do go, it just might lift their morale.”

Tutu has claimed that his greatest weakness is that he loves to be loved. “There are not too many who enjoy being castigated as ogres,” he says, “as someone others love to hate. I think that most of us would prefer to be popular than unpopular. I know for myself that it has tended to be a weakness – a tendency to enjoy the limelight, a weakness that would make you soften things that are hard but that you need to say. Many people would be surprised that, in fact, I’m quite shy. I know it doesn’t look like it.”

UK deputy prime minister, Dominic Raab, has described Tutu as a “truly great figure”.

Gary Younge quotes from his 2009 interview with Tutu:

More reaction to Tutu’s death from South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, and the archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba:

Ramaphosa said:

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.

Desmond Tutu was a patriot without equal; a leader of principle and pragmatism who gave meaning to the biblical insight that faith without works is dead.

Makgoba said:

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.

Loss of Tutu is ‘immeasurable’, says Nelson Mandela Foundation

The Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a statement:

The loss of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu is immeasurable. He was larger than life, and for so many in South Africa and around the world his life has been a blessing. His contributions to struggles against injustice, locally and globally, are matched only by the depth of his thinking about the making of liberatory futures for human societies. He was an extraordinary human being. A thinker. A leader. A shepherd. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this most difficult time.

“The Arch meant everything to me,” said foundation chief executive Sello Hatang. “I first met him during the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and was privileged to work with him on a number of projects over the years. He was a friend to Madiba and to the Foundation.”

Nelson Mandela and the Archbishop Emeritus first met at a debating competition in the early 1950s. It would be four decades later before they met again, on the day that Mandela was released from prison. His first night as a free man was spent at the home of the Tutus in Bishopscourt, Cape Town. On that occasion before everyone retired for the night, Tutu offered a prayer of thanksgiving and led a singing of Reverend Tiyo Soga’s famous hymn in isiXhosa, ‘Lizalis’idinga lakho’ – ‘Let your will be done’.

The apartheid state had frustrated attempts by both Mandela and Tutu for the two of them to meet before the prison release on 11 February 1990. From then until Mandela passed away in 2013 they were in regular contact and their friendship deepened over time. There was a light, almost teasing quality, to their relationship. They relentlessly poked fun at each other’s preferred attire, for instance – Mandela wearing his Madiba shirts and the Arch his robes. But they also collaborated on a number of important initiatives.

It was Tutu who held aloft Madiba’s hand on the balcony of Cape Town’s City Hall on 9 May 1994 and presented him to the assembled throngs as the country’s new “out of the box” President. In 1995 Mandela appointed him to chair the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a position Tutu used to drive endeavour to reckon with oppressive pasts but also to hold the new democratic government accountable. As Mandela reflected in that period: “His most characteristic quality is his readiness to take unpopular positions without fear … He speaks his mind on matters of public morality. As a result, he annoyed many of the leaders of the apartheid system. Nor has he spared those that followed them – he has from time to time annoyed many of us who belong to the new order. But such independence of mind – however wrong and unstrategic it may at times be – is vital to a thriving democracy.” Most recently, of course, Tutu spoke out robustly and insistently against state capture.

In 2004 he delivered the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, and used the platform to deliver a stinging critique of the governing party. The thrust of his argument was the extent to which leadership had failed society’s most vulnerable. “We were involved in the struggle because we believed we would evolve a new kind of society. A caring, a compassionate society. At the moment many, too many, of our people live in gruelling, demeaning, dehumanising poverty.”

Madiba and the Arch were both founding members of The Elders, an international grouping of inspirational leaders which has done human rights work in countries around the world.

“We owe it both to Madiba and to the Arch to continue working for the country and the world of their dreams,” said Hatang. “Their intersecting legacies are powerful resources for social justice work.”

When Nelson Mandela passed away in 2013, Archbishop Emeritus Tutu said: “This is a man who cared.” As the foundation mourns today the passing of our beloved Arch, we in turn can say precisely the same of him. May he rest in peace

Key dates from Tutu’s life, as reported by Reuters:

  • 1931 – Desmond Tutu is born in Klerksdorp, a town around 170 km (105 miles) to the west of Johannesburg.
  • 1943 – Tutu’s Methodist family joins the Anglican Church.
  • 1947 – Tutu falls ill with tuberculosis while studying at a secondary school near Sophiatown, Johannesburg. He befriends a priest and serves in his church after recovering from illness.
  • 1948 – The white National Party launches apartheid in the run-up to 1948 national elections. It wins popular support among white voters who want to maintain their dominance over the Black majority.
  • 1955 – Tutu marries Nomalizo Leah Shenxane and begins teaching at a high school in Johannesburg where his father is the headmaster.
  • 1958 – Tutu quits the school, refusing to be part of a teaching system that promotes inequality against Black students. He joins the priesthood.
  • 1962 – Tutu moves to Britain to study theology at King’s College London.
  • 1966 – Tutu moves back to South Africa and starts teaching theology at a seminary in the Eastern Cape. He also begins making his views against apartheid known.
  • 1975 – Tutu becomes the first Black Anglican Dean of Johannesburg.
  • 1980 – As general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, Tutu leads a delegation of church leaders to prime minister PW Botha, urging him to end apartheid. Although nothing comes of the meeting it is a historical moment where a Black leader confronts a senior white government official. The government confiscates Tutu’s passport.
  • 1984 – Tutu is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring about the end of white minority rule.
  • 1985 – Tutu becomes the first Black bishop of Johannesburg. He publicly endorses an economic boycott of South Africa and civil disobedience as a way to dismantle apartheid.
  • 1986 – Tutu becomes the first Black person appointed as bishop of Cape Town and head of the Anglican Church of the Province of Southern Africa. With other church leaders he mediates conflicts between Black protesters and government security forces.
  • 1990 – State President FW de Klerk unbans the African National Congress (ANC) and announces plans to release Nelson Mandela from prison.
  • 1991 – Apartheid laws and racist restrictions are repealed and power-sharing talks start between the state and 16 anti-apartheid groups.
  • 1994 – After Mandela sweeps to power at the helm of the ANC in the country’s first democratic elections, Tutu coins the term “Rainbow Nation” to describe the coming together of various races in post-apartheid South Africa.
  • 1994 – Mandela asks Tutu to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was set up to listen to, record and in some cases grant amnesty to perpetrators of human right violations under apartheid.
  • 1996 – Tutu retires from the church to focus solely on the commission. He continues his activism, advocating for equality and reconciliation and is later named Archbishop Emeritus.
  • 1997 – Tutu is diagnosed with prostate cancer. He has since been hospitalised to treat recurring infections.
  • 2011 – The Dalai Lama inaugurates the annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture but does so via satellite link after the South African government denies the Tibetan spiritual leader a visa to attend.
  • 2013 – Tutu makes outspoken comments about the ANC. He says he will no longer vote for the party because it had done a bad job addressing inequality, violence and corruption.
  • 2013 – Dubbed “the moral compass of the nation”, Tutu declares his support for gay rights, saying he would never “worship a God who is homophobic”.
  • 2021 – A frail-looking Tutu is wheeled into his former parish at St George’s cathedral in Cape Town, which used to be a safe haven for anti-apartheid activists, for a special thanksgiving service marking his 90th birthday.
  • 26 December 2021 – Tutu dies in Cape Town, aged 90.

Tutu died ‘peacefully’ at a care centre in Cape Town, says Tutu trust on behalf of family

“Ultimately, at the age of 90, he died peacefully at the Oasis Frail Care Centre in Cape Town this morning,” Dr Ramphela Mamphele, acting chairperson of the Archbishop Desmond Tutu IP Trust and co-ordinator of the Office of the Archbishop, said in a statement on behalf of the Tutu family.

Tutu was famous for coining the phrase “Rainbow Nation” to describe the new South Africa that emerged with the end of aprtheid and the presidency of nelson Mandela.

However, Reuters reports that in his later years he came to regret that the prediction had not come true and was a fierce critic of successive African National Congress-led governments.

“As an old man, I am sad because I had hoped that my last days would be days of rejoicing, days of praising and commending the younger people doing the things that we hoped so very much would be the case,” Tutu told Reuters in June 2014.

There is a lot of reaction coming in to the death of Desmond Tutu, the anti-apartheid warrior, including from former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba who said “we have lost a giant”.

Desmond Tutu, the cleric who was a giant figure in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, has died at the age of 90, the country’s president has announced.

“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,” president Cyril Ramaphosa said.

Desmond Tutu.
Desmond Tutu. Photograph: Trevor Samson/AFP/Getty Images © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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