Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner, icon of the fight against apartheid, is dead

Former South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, icon of the fight against apartheid and Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, passed away on Sunday December 26 at the age of 90, announced the South President -african, Cyril Ramaphosa.

The president expresses “In the name of all South Africans, his deep sadness following the death, this Sunday” of this essential figure in South African history, in a press release. “The death of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is a new chapter of mourning in our nation’s farewell to a generation of exceptional South Africans who left us a liberated South Africa”, added the president.

“A man of extraordinary intelligence, upright and invincible against the forces of apartheid, he was also tender and vulnerable in his compassion for those who had suffered oppression, injustice and violence under the apartheid, and for the oppressed and for the oppressors of the whole world ”, added Mr Ramaphosa.

“Finally, at the age of 90, he passed away peacefully at the Oasis Frail Care Center in Cape Town this morning”said Ramphela Mamphele, Interim President of the Archbishop Desmond Tutu IP Trust and Coordinator of the Archbishop’s Office, speaking on behalf of the Tutu family. She did not give details of the cause of death.

“The Arch”, as it was nicknamed by South Africans, had been weakened for several months. He no longer spoke in public but always greeted the cameras present at each of his travels, smiling or mischievous glance, during his vaccine against the Covid-19 in a hospital or during the office in Cape Town to celebrate his 90 years in October .

Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born on October 7, 1931 in Klerksdorp in the Transvaal, two hours from Johannesburg, the economic capital of South Africa. Her father Zacheriah Zililo is a schoolteacher and her mother Aletta is a cook. The family is poor. Throughout his life, he will keep the traces of polio he contracted in his childhood.

Desmond Tutu studied at the Johannesburg Bantu high school, which he left in 1950. He was admitted to a medical school but could not continue his studies there due to lack of financial means. He received a scholarship to study educational sciences at Pretoria Bantu Normal College, from which he graduated in 1953 with a teaching certificate.

He moved to one of the districts of Soweto in 1975

In 1955, he married Nomalizo Leah Shenxane, a teacher with whom he had four children. In 1957, he resigned from his teaching post, protesting against the weakening and degradation of the level of education of blacks after the entry into force of the Bantu Education Act of 1953, one of the major points of which was to enforce the principle of racially separated educational institutions. He then turned to religious studies and, in 1961, he was ordained an Anglican priest. A year later he went to King’s College London to further his theological studies and obtained a master’s degree in divinity in 1966. He returned in 1967 to South Africa where he worked as a teacher in theology.

In 1975, he was the first black person to hold the post of dean of the diocese of Johannesburg, officiating at St. Mary’s Anglican Cathedral. He refused luxurious official accommodation linked to this prestigious position and settled in one of the districts of Soweto, the black ghetto, where bloody riots broke out in 1976. His new function is for him an ideal and respected platform to defend the rights of black populations and denounce the segregationist and unequal regime of apartheid. In 1978 he became secretary general of the South African Ecumenical Council, further strengthening his stature as an untouchable figure and advocate for black people.

Desmond Tutu, at a rally for the release of Nelson Mandela, held in Hyde Park in London on July 17, 1988.

In 1975, he was the first black person to hold the post of dean of the diocese of Johannesburg, officiating at St. Mary’s Anglican Cathedral. He refused luxurious official accommodation linked to this prestigious position and settled in one of the districts of Soweto, the black ghetto, where bloody riots broke out in 1976. His new function is for him an ideal and respected platform to defend the rights of black populations and denounce the segregationist and unequal regime of apartheid. In 1978 he became secretary general of the South African Ecumenical Council, further strengthening his stature as an untouchable figure and advocate for black people.

He becomes the voice of the imprisoned anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela, whom he has never met in prison but whose strong convictions he shares. He pleads for firm but not violent action. It is this peaceful determination in the service of a just cause that earned him the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize.

Desmond Tutu gives a talk on April 3, 1985, in Johannesburg.

In 1986 he was appointed to the highest post in the Anglican Church of South Africa, becoming Archbishop of Cape Town. In 1987, he became president of the conference of all the churches in the country, a position he held until 1996. Thanks to his popularity and his aura in South Africa, but also by his international recognition, he played a decisive role. in the end of apartheid. On February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela was finally released after a detention of twenty-seven years and became, in 1994, the first black president of the country.

On October 29, 1998, South African President Nelson Mandela (left) receives five reports from Archbishop Desmond Tutu's Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Pretoria. The report reveals human rights violations by various political parties during the reign of the Nationalist Party (NP).

He then appointed Tutu to head the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was set up in 1995 and which was responsible for investigating human rights violations during apartheid. In three years of investigation, 30,000 people have been heard. But Tutu, inspired by his deep faith, preaches forgiveness and the guilty are granted amnesties. A final report was submitted at the end of 1998 to this effect.

After his renunciation of the archiepiscopal function, he continued his commitment to truth and justice, denouncing political corruption in South Africa or the country’s arms sales and, at the international level, criticizing, for example, human rights violations of the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. In 2010, he announced his withdrawal from public life. However, he still participates in many international actions, defending for example the Palestinian cause in 2012 or denouncing the situation of the Rohingyas in Burma in 2017. These actions have earned him many distinctions and great respect in his country and abroad. .

The dates

October 7, 1931 Born in Klerksdorp (South Africa)

1954-1957 Teacher

1961 Ordained priest

1975 Elected Dean of St. Mary’s Anglican Cathedral in Johannesburg

1984 Nobel Prize of Peace

1986 Archbishop of Cape Town

1995 Chairs the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

December 26, 2021 Died at the age of 90