By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
CAPE TOWN (Worthy News) – Desmond Tutu, the Anglican church leader who received the Nobel Peace Prize “for his role as a unifying leader figure in the non-violent campaign to resolve the problem of apartheid in South Africa,” has died. He was 90 years old.
Archbishop Tutu, symbolizing the spiritual and activist struggle against institutionalized segregation of the Black population, died in Cape Town on Boxing Day, his family confirmed.
The man will be remembered as the conscience of a nation, which endured apartheid from 1948 until the early 1990s, said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in a reaction.
“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,” Ramaphosa added.
“From the pavements of resistance in South Africa to the pulpits of the world’s great cathedrals and places of worship, and the prestigious setting of the Nobel peace prize ceremony, [he] distinguished himself as a non-sectarian, inclusive champion of universal human rights.”
Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize for his years of peaceful resistance inside and outside the church against apartheid in 1984.
As the leader of the South African Council of Churches and later Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, he became the spiritual voice of Black South Africans’ decades-long struggle for freedom.
Tutu also assisted as a mediator between rival black factions after President F. W. de Klerk released anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990. De Klerk passed away last month, while Mandela died in December 2013.
Backed by Tutu, De Klerk and Mandela were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and led negotiations to end apartheid and introduce multi-racial democracy.
After the 1994 general election resulted in a coalition government headed by Mandela, Tutu was to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The Commission investigated past human rights abuses by both pro and anti-apartheid groups and tried to help heal the deep wounds of a troubled nation.
He later became known for uttering controversial statements on international issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “What’s being done to the Palestinians at checkpoints, for us, it’s the kind of thing we experienced in South Africa,” he said.
However, he separately wrote in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper in 2014: “We are opposed to violence perpetrated by all parties. But we are not opposed to Jews.”
He also raised his voice against the Iraq War, the protracted conflict that began with the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the late 1990s and, in recent years, was hospitalized on several occasions to treat infections associated with his treatment.
“Ultimately, at the age of 90, he died peacefully at the Oasis Frail Care Centre in Cape Town this morning,” said Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, acting chairperson of the Archbishop Desmond Tutu IP Trust and coordinator of the office of the archbishop.
She spoke on behalf of the Tutu family, including his wife and four children. Dr. Ramphele did not give immediate details on the cause of death.
He leaves behind a nation that, to his dismay, was plunged into years of high-level corruption, mismanagement, and rampant crime following the Mandela era.
In 2004, the archbishop accused President Thabo Mbeki, Mandela’s successor, of enriching a tiny elite while “many, too many, of our people, live in grueling, demeaning, dehumanizing poverty.” Though he and Mbeki later reconciled, the archbishop remained unhappy about the state of affairs in his country under its next president, Jacob G. Zuma, who also faced scandals.
“I think we are at a bad place in South Africa,” Archbishop Tutu told The New York Times Magazine in 2010. “Especially when you contrast it with the Mandela-era. Many of the things that we dreamed were possible seem to be getting more and more out of reach. We have the most unequal society in the world.”
Then, in 2011, as critics accused the ruling African National Congress (ANC) of corruption and mismanagement, Archbishop Tutu again condemned the government. “This government, our government, is worse than the apartheid government,” he said, “because at least you were expecting it with the apartheid government.”
He added: “Mr. Zuma, you and your government don’t represent me. You represent your interests. I am warning you out of love; one day, we will start praying for the defeat of the A.N.C. government. You are disgraceful.”
In 2016, an alliance of religious leaders in South Africa joined other critics urging Zuma to step down. Later in early 2018, Zuma was ousted after a power struggle with his deputy, Ramaphosa, who took over the presidency in February.
While frail, Archbishop Tutu met Ramaphosa after being sworn in as the new president with the promise of a “new dawn” for the nation. “Know that we pray regularly for you and your colleagues that this must not be a false dawn,” Archbishop Tutu warned Ramaphosa at the time.
With Tutu now gone, fellow believers hope those prayers will be answered.
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