Anti-apartheid Icon Dies At 90
The passing of Archbishop 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 African," this is how President Cyril Ramaphosa paid tribute to the anti-apartheid icon who died on Sunday, aged 90. He was diagnosed with prostrate cancer in 1997 and underwent surgery. Tutu was subsequently hospitalised several times to undergo treatment for infections and other ailments. As the news of the death of the former Archbishop of Cape Town spread, tributes poured from around the world. Tutu's death comes just weeks after that of South Africa's last apartheid-era President FW de Klerk died at the age of 85.
Born on October 7, 1931, in Klerksdorp , west of Johannesburg, Tutu worked as a teacher before entering a theological seminary. He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1961, obtained a master's degree in theology at King's College, University of London, and in 1975 was appointed Dean of Johannesburg, the first Black person to hold the post. With many of South Africa's Black leaders in jail, including Nelson Mandela, and others in exile, Tutu emerged as a leading voice of black defiance.
Tutu was one of the country's best known figures at home and abroad. A contemporary of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, he was one of the driving forces behind the movement to end the policy of racial segregation and discrimination enforced by the white minority government against the black majority in South Africa from 1948 until 1991. He led numerous campaigns and marches against apartheid from St George's steps. It became known as the "People's Cathedral" and a powerful symbol of democracy. He was awarded the Nobel prize in 1984 for his role in the struggle to abolish the apartheid system.
As South Africa's first Black Anglican archbishop, Tutu used his international profile to lobby for sanctions against the white minority government from 1996 to 1998, he led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, aimed at exposing the injustice of the past. He also accused former President Thabo Mbeki of not doing enough to combat poverty and the spread of AIDS, and for remaining silent about human-rights abuses in neighbouring Zimbabwe. Tutu also clashed with Jacob Zama, Mbeki's successor as the head of the African National Congress( ANC).
Tutu officially retired from public life in 2010, yet continued to do charity work through his Deshmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation. Tutu made a public appearance in Cape Town in May 2021 to get his corona virus vaccine and encouraged others to follow suit. In his final years, Tutu had regretted that his dream of "Rainbow Nation" had yet to come true, and often fell out with erstwhile allies of the ruling ANC party for their failures to address the poverty.
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