Died on December 26, 2021, Archbishop Desmond Tutu did not stop fighting for human rights after the end of apartheid in 1994, continuing to fight for the oppressed all his life.
Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu has died at the age of 90.
The man, affectionately nicknamed "the Arch" (in reference to his office as prelate) by his compatriots, has won the respect and love of millions of South Africans and around the world, carving a permanent place in their hearts. and spirits.
When South Africans took to the streets on April 7, 2017, to protest against the dismissal by the respected Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, by President Jacob Zuma, Archbishop Tutu joined the protests, leaving his retirement home for the occasion. 86 years old at the time, his health was fragile. But he had contestation in his blood. According to him, no government is legitimate if it does not represent all of its population well. He aptly recalled it the same day:
We are going to pray for the fall of a government that represents us badly.
These words echoed his commitments to ethical and moral integrity as well as human dignity. It was on the basis of these principles that he fought valiantly against the apartheid system and that he became, as affirms it rightly the Desmond Tutu Foundation, “a staunch defender of human rights and an activist of the oppressed”.
But Archbishop Tutu did not stop fighting for human rights after the official end of apartheid in 1994.
Likewise, his fight for human rights was not confined to South Africa. He not only continued to criticize politicians who abused their power but also gave his support to various causes in different parts of the world, thus strongly supporting the Dalai Lama in the face of Chinese repression or Palestinian people. He was also very involved in the struggle against AIDS, poverty, racism, homophobia and transphobia.
He had also become an important supporter of the Dalai Lama, whom he considers his best friend, and had sharply criticized the South African government which had refused a visa to the Tibetan spiritual leader in exile who was to come and pronounce the "Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture" in 2011.
Desmond Tutu comes from a humble background. He was born on October 7, 1931 in Klerksdorp, in the northwestern province of South Africa, where his father, Zachariah, was the principal of a secondary school. Her mother, Aletha Matlare, was a domestic worker.
One of the most influential people of his early years was the father Trevor Huddleston, a staunch anti-apartheid activist. It is their friendship that leads the young Tutu to be introduced into the Anglican Church.
After completing his studies, he briefly taught English and history at Madibane High School in Soweto, then at Krugersdorp High School, west of Johannesburg, where his father was principal. It was there that he met his future wife, Nomalizo Leah Shenxane.
Although Anglican, he agrees to marry according to the Roman Catholic ceremony. This ecumenical act, at a very early stage in his life, gives us a glimpse of his commitment in the following years.
Desmond Tutu quits teaching following the introduction of the law on Bantu education, in 1953. This new law stipulates that the education of the indigenous African population must be limited to making it a reservoir of unskilled labor.
Two years after these changes, he entered the service of the church as a sub-deacon, then enrolled in theological training in 1958. He was ordained deacon of Saint Mary's Cathedral in Johannesburg in 1960, and became its priest. first black dean in 1975.
In 1962 he went to London to continue his theological training with funding from the World Council of Churches. There he obtained a master's degree in divinity and, after serving in various parishes in London, returned to South Africa in 1966. to teach at the Federal Theological Seminary of Alice, in the province of the Eastern Cape.
Also particularly interested in the study of Islam, he wanted to concentrate on it as part of his doctoral studies, but his life took a turn that prevented him from doing so.
His activities in the early 1970s, during which he toured Africa, teaching in Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland before visiting many countries of the continent as a associate director for Africa au Theological Education Fund, lead him to discover the black theology (a current of theological thought which articulates Christianity and questions of civil rights) and lays the foundations of its political engagement against apartheid. He eventually returned to Johannesburg as city dean and rector of St. Mary's Anglican parish in 1976.
It was during this period that Tutu first came into conflict with the then apartheid prime minister, John Vorster, writing him a letter in 1976, to denounce the deplorable state in which blacks had to live.
June 16 of the same year, Soweto ignites. Black high school students protest the forced use of Afrikaans as a language of instruction and are slaughtered by apartheid police.
Bishop Tutu finds himself more and more involved in the struggle and delivers one of his most passionate and fiery speeches after death in custody of black militant leader Steve Biko in 1977.
As Secretary General of the South African Council of Churches, then as rector of St. Augustine Church in Soweto, he became an ardent critic of the most scandalous aspects of apartheid, including the forced evictions of blacks from urban areas considered as white areas.
As a result of his growing political activism, "the Arch" became the target of large-scale repression by the apartheid government and was the subject of death threats and bomb threats in the 1980s. His passport He is took of in March 1980 although a "limited travel document" was granted to him two years later following numerous protests and international pressure, allowing him to travel abroad.
In the four years leading up to Nelson Mandela's release after 27 years in prison, “the Arch” has had a lot to do. He is campaigning relentlessly for international pressure to be exerted on apartheid and for the regime to face sanctions.
Extension of its commitment to democracy
After 1994, he headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whose main objective is to give those - for or against apartheid - who have committed human rights violations the opportunity to confess their guilt, to offer a legal amnesty to those who deserve it and to allow to those guilty of making amends to their victims.
Two of the greatest moments in his personal life took Desmond Tutu's theological vision beyond the confines of the Church. One of them came when her daughter Mpho said she was gay and the Church refused her marriage. "The Arch" then proclaimed his disagreement:
If, as they say, God was homophobic, I wouldn't worship him.
The second was when he declared his preference for assisted death.
South Africa is blessed to have had such a brave and courageous man as "the Arch" who so embodied the idea that the country is a " Rainbow nation ". South Africa will feel the loss of its moral compass for generations to come. Hamba kahle (be well) Arch.