Arch Bishop Tutu has died

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Arch Bishop Tutu has died

Post by honestbroker1 » Sun Dec 26, 2021 12:09 pm

From The Times:
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel peace prize laureate who helped to end the apartheid regime in South Africa, has died in Cape Town aged 90.

The human rights campaigner was described by President Ramaphosa as a “patriot without equal” and an “iconic spiritual leader” in a statement paying tribute to his contribution to the nation.

“The passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is another chapter of bereavement in our nations farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa,” Ramaphosa added.

In 1981 Tutu addressed 15,000 furious black mourners at the funeral of Griffiths Mxenge, a civil rights lawyer who had been hacked to death by state assassins one night on a football field in Durban. As he finished speaking, a section of the crowd rounded on a man in their midst and accused him of spying for South Africa’s apartheid regime. The mourners beat the alleged “impimpi” to the ground, then produced a tyre and some petrol. They were about to “necklace” their victim when Tutu broke through their ranks, hurled himself across the man’s prostrate body and demanded that his assailants back off. Tutu, his clerical robes stained with the man’s blood, then led him to his car and drove him away.

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The achievements of Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Courage, both moral and physical, was the hallmark of the man who became the first black leader of the Anglican church in South Africa. For 15 years, while Nelson Mandela (obituary, December 5, 2013) and other leaders of the African National Congress were in prison, Tutu was his country’s most prominent opponent of apartheid, leading the black liberation struggle at home and abroad. Described by one biographer as a “rabble-rouser for peace”, he was denounced as “public enemy number one” by President PW Botha and vilified in the pro-government media. He was subjected to a hate campaign and death threats, twice had his passport confiscated, and escaped imprisonment himself only because of his international stature — he was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1984.

Yet the first black Archbishop of Cape Town also risked the hostility of his country’s angry and radicalised black population by preaching moderation. Though Tutu did not explicitly condemn the armed struggle for black emancipation, he abhorred violence and sometimes said prayers at public meetings for South Africa’s white oppressors. He led huge protest marches and denounced apartheid in fiery speeches, but saw economic pressure as the best means of dismantling it. In western capitals he would call for disinvestment in, and sanctions against, his own country.

He recognised that economic sanctions hurt poor black people most, but argued that they would willingly endure greater hardship to achieve freedom. “If you can tell me of an alternative to non-violent strategy that will bring an end to apartheid then I will abandon my commitment to sanctions and go round the world pursuing your approach until we reach our goal,” he told his critics, both black and white. “But if you cannot, then I will stick with sanctions.”

Tutu stands beside Nelson Mandela in 2013 as the former South African president lifts the FIFA World Cup trophy
Tutu stands beside Nelson Mandela in 2013 as the former South African president lifts the FIFA World Cup trophy
Tutu was a small, ebullient man with a keen sense of mischief and a great cackle of a laugh, likened by one prominent journalist to a “black leprechaun”. He would weep in public, literally dance down aisles or across stages, and use wit to disguise the most trenchant criticism. He believed in humour, humility and humanity. He was sustained by his great faith, by several hours of daily prayer and Bible study, and the rock-solid support of his wife, Leah. “I would rather you were happy on Robben Island [Mandela’s prison] than unhappy outside,” she once told him.

At a time when his country was convulsed by hatred Tutu called for reconciliation and forgiveness, and is credited with coining the term “rainbow nation” to describe the harmonious multi-ethnic South Africa of which he dreamed. That was a vision for which “the Arch”, as Tutu was known to his friends, continued to fight long after Mandela’s release in 1990 and the subsequent election of his country’s first black majority government. Most notably, he chaired the pioneering Truth and Reconciliation Commission that urged South Africans, white and black, to repent of the crimes they had committed during the apartheid era in order to move on. Yet he was also quick to condemn the transgressions of the new ANC-led governments, once quipping that the party’s leaders had “stopped the gravy train just long enough to get on themselves”.

Tutu became not only the conscience of South Africa, but also the world. In characteristically robust language he condemned the war in Iraq, President Mugabe’s repression in neighbouring Zimbabwe and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. As Mandela once said of the only South African whose international stature came remotely close to matching his own: “Sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid and seldom without humour, Desmond Tutu’s voice will always be the voice of the voiceless.”

Tutu is pictured alongside US president Barack Obama at his HIV Foundation Youth Centre in Cape Town in 2013
Tutu is pictured alongside US president Barack Obama at his HIV Foundation Youth Centre in Cape Town in 2013
Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born in a black township in the town of Klerksdorp, west of Johannesburg, in 1931. He was the second of four children of a teacher who occasionally drank too much, and of a mother who worked as a cook and cleaner at a school for the blind. As an infant he contracted polio and was left with a weak right hand that forced him to write with his left.

The family moved first to Ventersdorp in western Transvaal, where Tutu learned Afrikaans, and then to Johannesburg when he was 12. It was there, in the black slum of Sophiatown, that he met Father Trevor Huddleston, a radical white priest who had a huge influence on the young boy and became his role model. The first time Tutu met Huddleston the white man doffed his hat to Tutu’s mother, a gesture almost unheard of in apartheid South Africa. Later, when the teenage Tutu contracted tuberculosis and had to spend 20 months in a sanatorium, Huddleston visited him regularly.

Tutu wanted to become a doctor but could not afford the tuition fees. Instead, he trained as a teacher and in 1955 married Nomalizo Leah Shenxane, a fellow student with whom he had a son, named Trevor after Huddleston, and three daughters, Mpho, Naomi and Theresa. Leah and his children survive him. The couple both resigned from their jobs after the implementation of the Bantu Education Act, which enforced racial separation in educational institutions. He retrained, this time as a priest, and was ordained in 1961 when he was 30. Recognising his talent, the principal of his theological college arranged for him to study further at King’s College London. His family followed and during four years in Britain he worked as a part-time curate, first in Golders Green and then in the village of Bletchingley, Surrey.

It was in Britain that he first began to realise the intrinsic evil of apartheid. Police officers were polite. White people did not take precedence in queues. He visited Lord’s, the Royal Albert Hall and the Travellers Club in Pall Mall. He lost the sense of inferiority most black South Africans felt in the presence of whites, but that made his family’s return to racially segregated South Africa in 1967 all the more jarring.

The Tutus sent their children to a boarding school in Swaziland to avoid apartheid. Tutu went to teach at a seminary in Alice, a small town in the Eastern Cape, and became chaplain to the adjacent Fort Hare University, seat of the new Black Consciousness movement where Mandela and other future ANC leaders studied. It was there that he engaged in his first political act. The predominantly black student body staged a sit-in outside the administration building. When they refused to leave, the police arrived with guns and dogs. Tutu and other clergy hurried to bless and pray with the students, forcing the police to hold back until the tension subsided.

Thereafter Tutu changed jobs swiftly and rose fast. He lectured at a university in Lesotho for three years. In 1972 he returned to London as regional director for Africa of the World Council of Church’s Theological Education Fund, a job that allowed him to travel widely in Africa, and introduced him to the concept of liberation theology which holds that Christianity should champion the poor and oppressed. In 1975 he became the first black dean of St Mary’s Cathedral, Johannesburg. A year after that he was appointed Bishop of Lesotho, and two years later general secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SAAC), an organisation he used to spearhead his battle against apartheid.

Tutu was slow to enter the political arena, but that changed after the regime’s demand that black schools teach in Afrikaans as well as English, sparking the Soweto Uprising of 1976. Thousands of black students marched in protest. The police opened fire, killing hundreds. Thereafter Tutu became the most prominent and articulate spokesman for South Africa’s oppressed black majority, filling the void caused by the imprisonment or exile of the ANC leadership.

Dressed in his purple cassock, he led protest marches of 30,000 or 40,000 people, and was briefly jailed after one such march. He addressed the huge funerals of slain black activists, seeking simultaneously to boost the mourners’ morale while preventing their anger turning to violence. “I bid you pray for the rulers of this land, for the police, especially the security police and those in the prison service, that they may realise they are human too,” he declared at Steve Biko’s funeral in 1977. He backed boycotts and campaigns of civil disobedience. “We refuse to be treated as the doormat for the government to wipe its jackboots on,” he declared.

On trips abroad he denounced apartheid, which he sometimes compared to Nazism. “If Christ returned to South Africa today he would almost certainly be detained under the present security laws because of his concern for the poor, the hungry and the oppressed,” he stated. He opposed Margaret Thatcher and President Reagan’s policy of “constructive engagement” with the regime, calling it “an abomination and an unmitigated disaster”. He instead demanded an economic boycott of South Africa, risking prosecution for treason and upsetting liberal whites who argued that sanctions would cost poor black people their jobs. Tutu retorted that their suffering would be temporary while apartheid would “go on and on and on”.

The regime twice not only withdrew his passport, but also vilified and orchestrated smear campaigns against the turbulent priest. It ordered an investigation into the SAAC but failed to close it down. Perversely, such measures helped Tutu by bolstering his credibility among black activists who disliked his opposition to violence and calls for moderation. His stature was greatly enhanced in 1984 when he was awarded the Nobel peace prize for his non-violent campaign against apartheid. “One day no one was listening. The next I was an oracle,” he quipped. He dedicated the award to “the little people of this country whose noses are rubbed in the dust every day”.

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