The international community was thrown into mourning yesterday following the announcement of the death of Nobel Peace Laureate and one of South Africa’s surviving apartheid icon Desmond Tutu at the age of 90.
The death of Tutu was confirmed in a statement yesterday by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. In his condolences to Tutu’s family and friends, Ramaphosa described him as “a patriot without equal.”
The president said Tutu was “ a man of extraordinary intellect, integrity and invincibility against the forces of apartheid, he was also tender and vulnerable in his compassion for those who had suffered oppression, injustice and violence under apartheid, and oppressed and downtrodden people around the world.”
Just five feet five inches (1.7 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. Following his tirelessly across the world 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.
He used his high-profile role in the Anglican Church to highlight the plight of black South Africans. Of particular note is that Tutu used his appointment as Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches in 1978 to call for sanctions against his country.
He was named the first Black Archbishop of Cape Town in 1986, becoming the head of the Anglican Church, South Africa’s fourth largest. He would retain that position until 1996.
A schoolteacher’s son, Tutu was born in Klerksdorp, a conservative town west of Johannesburg, on Oct. 7, 1931. The family moved to Sophiatown in Johannesburg, one of the commercial capital’s few mixed-race areas, subsequently demolished under apartheid laws to make way for the white suburb of Triomf – aTriumph in Afrikaans.
. . . Buhari, Obasanjo, Abiodun, Archbishop of Canterbury, Dalai Lama, others react
President Muhammadu Buhari said the passing of Desmond Tutu has further created a void in a world in dire need of wisdom, integrity, courage and sound reasoning, which were qualities that the Nobel Peace Prize Winner typified and exemplified in words and actions.
In his condolence message to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africans and the global Christian body, particularly Anglican Communion, Buhari “commiserated with Leah Tutu, the spouse of the spiritual leader and lifelong partner in the struggle against injustice, corruption and inequality, the Tutu family, board and staff of Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, Elders and Nobel Laureate Group, urging solace that the voice of the scholar and teacher, his published works, and inspirational quotes will resonate through generations, bringing more light and clarity to religious diversity, democracy and good governance.”
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in a condolence letter to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the news ofMr Tutu’s demise got to him with the feeling of a sense of personal loss.
“It is with this same feeling that I write to commiserate with you, his family members, and the entire good people of South Africa on the passing of this great son of Africa. He had been a difference-maker for his family, his friends, his flock, his community, the Church, the Republic of South Africa, and, indeed, the world.
“Over the years, Reverend Tutu had shown focused, credible, bold, sensitive, and purposeful leadership not just to members of the Anglican Church but to all Christians. He had been part of building and strengthening the Anglican Church, and its eminent place in the Church system in South Africa today is not unrelated to his selfless service and leadership.”
Ogun State governor, Dapo Abiodun expressed grief over the death of Tutu. He said: “Desmond Tutu’s legacy is moral strength, moral courage and clarity. He felt with the people. In public and alone, he cried because he felt people’s pain. And he laughed – no, not just laughed, he cackled with delight when he shared their joy.
“Though he was a South African, he defended the cause of Africa and blacks in the diaspora. He preached peace; lived peace and shared the words of peace. Even, when apartheid was raging in his country of birth, late Tutu urged his country men and other fighters against white imperialism, to use peace as a vehicle to champion their cause.”
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said “Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a prophet and priest, a man of words and action – one who embodied the hope and joy that were the foundations of his life. Even in our profound sorrow we give thanks for a life so well lived. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”
In his tribute, the Spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama said: “The friendship and the spiritual bond between us was something we cherished. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was entirely dedicated to serving his brothers and sisters for the greater common good. He was a true humanitarian and a committed advocate of human rights.”
World Ccouncil of Churches noted that “Desmond Mpilo Tutu was a unique character. His contagious sense of humour and laughter has helped to resolve many critical situations in South Africa’s political and church life. He was able to break almost any deadlock. He shared with us the laughter and grace of God many a time.”
Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere described Tutu as “ a great little man who showed the power of reconciliation and forgiveness … Tutu’s point was that injustice and abuse must not be forgotten, but that at the same time it must not be avenged if a society was to move on.”
Uk Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his reaction said: “He was a critical figure in the fight against apartheid and in the struggle to create a new South Africa and will be remembered for his spiritual leadership and irrepressible good humour.”
Wasel Aabu Yyoussef, member of the Eexecutive Ccommittee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation remarked that “Father Desmond Tutu was one of the biggest supporters of the Palestinian cause. He had always advocated the rights of the Palestinians to gain their freedom and rejected Israeli occupation and Apartheid.”
British billionaire businessman Richard Branson noted that “The world has lost a giant. He was a brave leader, a mischievous delight, a profound thinker and a dear friend … He used his incredible moral courage to bridge divides and showed all of us how we have one common humanity.”
Senior official with Palestinian Islamist Militant Group Hamas Basim Naeem said: “Our Palestinian people lost a strong supporter of their march towards freedom and independence. Father Desmond Tutu spent his entire life struggling against racism and defending human rights and especially on the Palestinian land.”
Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King said: “I’m saddened to learn of the death of global sage, human rights leader, and powerful pilgrim on earth … we are better because he was here.”
UK deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said: “Sad to hear of the passing of Desmond Tutu. A truly great figure, who I had the privilege to meet in The Hague when he was working for the victims of war crimes. His adage, ‘Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument’, has never felt more apt.”