South African anti-apartheid activist Archbishop Tutu dies aged 90
Archbishop Tutu died Sunday (December 26) in Cape Town, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office said in a statement.
He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997 and underwent surgery. He was then hospitalized several times for treatment for infections and other ailments.
As South Africa’s first black Anglican archbishop, he used his international profile to push for sanctions against the white minority government.
From 1996 to 1998, he headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, aimed at denouncing the injustices of the past.
Archbishop Tutu’s activism was shaped by his religious conviction, a mischievous sense of humor, and physical bravery that once led him to rush into a crowd to save the life of a young woman on the point of being lynched, suspected of being a police informant.
The Anglican Church will hold its funeral and other memorial services with the support of the South African government and the City of Cape Town, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said in a statement.
Details of these events, which will take place under the Covid-19 regulations, will be announced at a later date.
“It is a moral universe; God is in charge of this world ”was a favorite saying of the man who, as Archbishop of Cape Town, loved to wear a t-shirt emblazoned with:“ Just Call Me Arch.
Born October 7, 1931 in Klerksdorp, west of Johannesburg, he worked as a teacher before entering a theological seminary.
He was ordained an Anglican priest at the age of 30, received a master’s degree in divinity from King’s College, University of London, and in 1975 was appointed Dean of Johannesburg, the first black to hold that post.
With many black South African leaders in prison, including Mr. Nelson Mandela, and others in exile, Archbishop Tutu has become one of the main voices of black defiance against apartheid.
He became secretary general of the South African Council of Churches, an organization at the forefront of the fight against the white minority regime, in 1978.
He called for economic sanctions against the apartheid regime, in defiance of a law that prohibits advocating such actions. The government responded by withdrawing his passport.
He was appointed Archbishop of Cape Town, titular head of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, in 1986 and held this post until 1995, when he was appointed head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
He openly cried as he listened to the victims of South Africa’s pre-1994 institutionalized racial discrimination system, while opposing the Nuremberg-style trials of those responsible for the atrocities.
Even after the fall of apartheid in 1994, he never lost his outrage at injustice or his capacity to protest.
Shortly after South Africa’s first democratic vote, won by Mr Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC), he criticized the new government for “stopping the gravy train just long enough to continue” .
He also accused former President Thabo Mbeki of not doing enough to fight poverty and the spread of AIDS, and of remaining silent on human rights violations in neighboring Zimbabwe.
He also clashed with Jacob Zuma, Mr Mbeki’s successor at the head of the ANC, saying he should have been tried for receiving bribes from arms dealers.
The case against Zuma was dropped in April 2009, just weeks before he was elected president, but was later reinstated and is currently before the courts.
When the Zuma administration denied the Dalai Lama an entry visa in 2014, he accused him of “bowing down” to China and said he was “ashamed to call this lickspittle group my government” .
In 2017, he joined tens of thousands of people who took to the streets to demand Zuma’s ouster, after the president’s sacking of his respected finance minister caused the rand to collapse.
The ANC forced Zuma to resign the following year. Archbishop Tutu made a public appearance in Cape Town in May 2021 to be vaccinated against the coronavirus and encouraged others to follow suit.
He is survived by his wife Léa and their four children.