Since the death of South African cleric and anti-apartheid icon, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, on Sunday at the ripe age of 90, tributes have been pouring in from all around the world. They all describe him in colourful lines as a man that lived an extraordinary life.
Desmond Tutu is highly acclaimed for playing a key role in dismantling apartheid in South Africa, for his tireless campaign for social justice, and the admirable work he did chairing the nation’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee during the Nelson Mandela administration, providing healing, closure, and direction for his country and the world post-Apartheid.
On October 16, 1984, Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his “role as a unifying leader figure in the campaign to resolve the problem of apartheid in South Africa.”
President Muhammadu Buhari said the death of the iconic teacher, human rights activist, leader of thought, scholar, and philanthropist further creates a void in a world in dire need of wisdom, integrity, courage, and sound reasoning, which were qualities he typified and exemplified in words and actions.
He recalled the critical role Archbishop Tutu played in the fight against apartheid during which he endured physical assaults, jail terms, and prolonged exile, a struggler that transcended his calling at the pulpit to achieve global, political relevance.
On his part, former President Olusegun Obasanjo recalled Tutu’s “uncommon solidarity and the deep passion with which he argued Nigeria’s case for full debt cancellation by the contents of his letter to Mr. Gordon Brown, the then United Kingdom’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, during my administration as the President of Nigeria.”
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called Tutu “a patriot without equal, a man of extraordinary intellect, integrity and invincibility against the forces of apartheid” and a man who showed infinite compassion for victims of oppression, injustice, and violence under apartheid and the oppressed and downtrodden people around the world.
The current archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, said Tutu wanted every human being on Earth to experience the freedom, the peace, and the joy that all of us would enjoy if we truly respected one another as people created in the image of God.
The United Nations secretary-general Anthonio Guterres described him as a towering global figure for peace and an inspiration to generations across the world.
United States of America President,Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden spoke of their ‘heartbreak’ at Tutu passing on.
In a statement from the Whitehouse, the Bidens said the Archbishop’s ‘courage and moral clarity’ helped to inspire Americans to change their policy toward the repressive Apartheid regime in South Africa.
“Desmond Tutu followed his spiritual calling to create a better, freer, and more equal world. His legacy transcends borders and will echo throughout the ages,” they wrote.
On his part, former President Barack Obama described the late Tutu as ‘a universal spirit,’ a mentor, friend, and moral compass.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation described Tutu “as larger than life”, whose life was a blessing to not only South Africans but the whole world with his tireless advocacy for social justice, locally and globally.
Similarly, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tutu would be remembered for his spiritual leadership and irrepressible good humour who played a vital role in the struggle to create a new South Africa.
The Tibetan spiritual leader, The Dalai Lama, called Tutu a “spiritual brother and good friend.”
Born of humble background on October 7, 1931, in Klerksdorp, northwest South Africa, Desmond Mpilo Tutu rose in the South African Anglican Communion to become The Bishop of Johannesburg and later the Archbishop of Cape Town, the highest position in the church in the country. He was also the General-Secretary of the South African Council of Churches from 1978–1985, among other positions.
Tutu used the privilege of the pulpit to campaign for universal freedoms and human equality in his country and across the world. He struck a good balance between his politics and his religious calling without letting one demean the other.
The tributes will continue to pour in long after he had been buried on January 1, 2022. The South African government has rightly rolled out the drums to celebrate a remarkable patriot, a proud African and a global citizen who, throughout his life, lived a life of service to others, a fighter for justice, and a lover of humanity, including even his adversaries.
Though Tutu is survived by his wife Nomalizo Leah Tutu and four children: Trevor Thamsanqa, 65, Theresa Thandeka, 64, Naomi Nontombi, 61, and Mpho Andrea Tutu, 58, but left to mourn him are a thankful South Africa and Africa.