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ELECTION 2022

Desmond Tutu: Anti-apartheid hero who never stopped fighting for 'Rainbow Nation'

WORLD
By Reuters | Dec 26th 2021 | 3 min read

Archbishop Desmond Tutu at St George's Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, on October 7, 2017. [Reuters]

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and veteran of South Africa's struggle against white minority rule, has died aged 90, the presidency said on Sunday.

"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.

"Like falling in love" is how Archbishop Desmond Tutu described voting in South Africa's first democratic election in 1994, a remark that captured both his puckish humour and his profound emotions after decades fighting apartheid.

Desmond Mpilo Tutu, the Nobel Peace laureate whose moral might permeated South African society during apartheid's darkest hours and into the unchartered territory of a new democracy, has died, South Africa's presidency said on Sunday. He was 90.

The outspoken Tutu was considered the nation's conscience by both Black and white, an enduring testament to his faith and spirit of reconciliation in a divided nation.

He preached against the tyranny of 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 his final years, he regretted that his dream of a "Rainbow Nation" had not yet come true.

On the global stage, the human rights activist spoke out across a range of topics, from Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories to gay rights, climate change, and assisted death - issues that cemented Tutu's broad appeal.

"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," said President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Just five feet five inches (1.68 metres) tall and with an infectious giggle, Tutu was a moral giant who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his non-violent struggle against apartheid.

He used his high-profile role in the Anglican Church to highlight the plight of black South Africans.

Asked on his retirement as Archbishop of Cape Town in 1996 if he had any regrets, Tutu said: "The struggle tended to make one abrasive and more than a touch self-righteous. I hope that people will forgive me any hurts I may have caused them."

Talking and travelling tirelessly throughout the 1980s, Tutu became the face of the anti-apartheid movement abroad while many of the leaders of the rebel African National Congress (ANC), such as Nelson Mandela, were behind bars.

"Our land is burning and bleeding and so I call on the international community to apply punitive sanctions against this government," he said in 1986.

Even as governments ignored the call, he helped rouse grassroots campaigns around the world that fought for an end to apartheid through economic and cultural boycotts.

Former hardline white president P.W. Botha asked Tutu in a letter in March 1988 whether he was working for the kingdom of God or for the kingdom promised by the then-outlawed and now ruling ANC.

Graveside Orations

Among his most painful tasks was delivering graveside orations for Black people who had died violently during the struggle against white domination.

"We are tired of coming to funerals, of making speeches week after week. It is time to stop the waste of human lives," he once said.

Tutu said his stance on apartheid was moral rather than political.

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