Desmond Tutu’s Background, Episcopal Duties and Anti-Apartheid Struggles

Desmond Tutu’s Background, Episcopal Duties and Anti-Apartheid Struggles

Sunday, December 26, 2021 3:38 pm

Desmond Tutu

By Richard Elesho

After more than two decades of battle with prostate cancer, Nobel Price Peace laureate and notable South African human rights activist Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu has passed on. He died this Sunday 26th December 2021 at the age of 90.
The South African government which confirmed the death in a sombre tone, gave no details on it.
“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 was a patriot without equal.”
“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.
The late Archbishop would be remembered for his courage in speaking truth to power and his outstanding sense of fairness and equity. With these attributes, the country’s black and white populations widely accepted him as the conscience of the nation.
Tutu preached against the tyranny of the white minority and even after its end, he never wavered in his fight for a fairer South Africa, calling the Black political elite to account with as much feistiness as he had the white Afrikaners.
In 1984 Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent opposition to apartheid. A decade later, he witnessed the ends of that regime, following the release of symbol of the struggles, Dr. Nelson Mandela from 27 years incarceration.
After becoming President, the late freedom fighter appointed Tutu to chair a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up to unearth atrocities committed during those dark days.
Tutu was born on 7th October 1931, of mixed Xhosa and Motswana poor parentage, in Klerksdorp. His mother, Allen Dorothea Mavoertsek Mathlare, was born to Motswana parents in Boksburg, while his father, Zachariah Zelilo Tutu, a teacher, was from Xhosa.
According to Du Boulay Shirley in Tutu: Voice of the Voiceless, and other researchers, Desmond Tutu, trained as a teacher and married Nomalizo Leah Tutu, with whom he had many children. In 1960, he was ordained as an Anglican priest and in 1962 moved to the United Kingdom to study theology at King’s College London.
In 1966 he returned home and took up a teaching job at the Federal Theological Seminary and then the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. In 1972, he became the Theological Education Fund’s director for Africa, a position based in London but necessitating regular tours of the African continent.
Back in southern Africa in 1975, he served first as dean of St Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg and then as Bishop of Lesotho; from 1978 to 1985 he was general-secretary of the South African Council of Churches.
He emerged as one of the most prominent opponents of South Africa’s apartheid system of racial segregation and white minority rule. Although warning the National Party government that anger at apartheid would lead to racial violence, as an activist he stressed non-violent protest and foreign economic pressure to bring about universal suffrage.
In 1985, Tutu became Bishop of Johannesburg and in 1986 the Archbishop of Cape Town, the most senior position in southern Africa’s Anglican hierarchy. He was the first Blackman in both positions.
In this position, he emphasised a consensus-building model of leadership and oversaw the introduction of female priests. Also in 1986, he became president of the All Africa Conference of Churches, resulting in further tours of the continent.
Following apartheid’s fall, Tutu campaigned for gay rights and spoke out on a wide range of subjects, among them the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, his opposition to the Iraq War, and his criticism of South African presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma. In 2010, he retired from public life.
Tutu polarised opinion as he rose to prominence in the 1970s. White conservatives who supported apartheid despised him, while many white liberals regarded him as too radical; many black radicals accused him of being too moderate and focused on cultivating white goodwill, while Marxist–Leninists criticised his anti-communist stance.
Now that he is gone and belong to the ages, the divisions may have been consigned to the trash can of history. Both critics and fans mourn his passage.

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