Home Advocate Obituary: Desmond Tutu, the justice lawyer who helped South Africa defeat apartheid

Obituary: Desmond Tutu, the justice lawyer who helped South Africa defeat apartheid


A life well spent. A completely maximized trip. A cycle that gave birth to a generational impact. If the most thoughtful definition of a life well spent is one that offered hope to the besieged, gave voice to the spotlight muffled and focused on the plight of the oppressed, then Desmond Tutu can be called one of the few humans. to be endowed with a rich life spent.

When news of his passing at the age of 90 broke just hours after Christmas 2021, the world mourned the passing of a man who showed humanity that revolution doesn’t always have to come from the nose cold from guns and the violence they unleash. . A man who demanded peace and not docility, called for emancipation and not destruction, demanded moderation but was not a crook. Tutu was, indeed, a man of God. One of the essential cogs in the liberation of black South Africans from the bondage of apartheid.


AP Photo / Obed Zilwa.

In 1931, Tutu was born in Klerksdorp, a town about 170 km west of Johannesburg. Her father was a teacher at a local missionary school. Tutu, who grew up in a mud brick house, once described his childhood this way: “Although we were not rich, we were not poor either. A young Tutu wanted to pursue a career in medicine, but he could not afford the cost of training. Rather, he became a teacher.

In 1953, after the white minority government of the National Party introduced the “Bantu Education Law” to promote their apartheid system of racial segregation and white domination, Tutu left the teaching profession and began to study to become an Anglican priest.

Tutu and his wife Leah admire the view from the Great Wall of China at Badaling outside Beijing on August 13, 1986. Tutu was visiting China at the invitation of religious groups. [Neal Ulevich/AP Photo]

After further studying theology in the UK, Tutu returned to his homeland and became the first black South African to be appointed dean of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg.


AP Photo / J. Pat Carter

Tutu used the pulpit to enact peaceful agitation against the discrimination of the apartheid movement. He walked through crowds of seething black protesters and offered soothing words and prayers as they were surrounded by belligerent police. He publicly condemned the system that discriminates against his predominantly white congregation and boldly supported an international economic boycott of South Africa against apartheid.

Despite his nonviolent stance, Tutu was not indifferent to the iron fist of the government which has sought to vigorously silence all dissenting voices against apartheid. Once after his public approval of economic sanctions, he was cross-examined by two ministers and was ultimately remanded in custody with his passport seized.

Tutu was also arrested and his travel documents confiscated for participating in peaceful gatherings. As other leaders of the anti-apartheid movement grew weary of non-violent tactics, Tutu preached patience, saying, “Moses went to see Pharaoh several times to secure the release of the Israelites.”


AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite

After being nominated three times, in 1984 Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize.

In his Nobel lecture, Tutu made no bones about his words as he preached the injustice of racial inequality and how it dehumanizes both the oppressed and the oppressor.

“When will we learn that human beings are of infinite value because they were created in the image of God and that it is blasphemy to treat them as if they were inferior to that and ultimately to make it come back? on those who do this? By dehumanizing others, they are themselves dehumanized. Perhaps oppression dehumanizes the oppressor as much, if not more, than the oppressed. They need each other to become truly free, to become human. We can only be human in fraternity, in community, in koinonia, in peace, ”he declared.

“Let us work to be peacemakers, those who have a marvelous part in the ministry of reconciliation of Our Lord. If we want peace, we were told, let’s work for justice. Let us beat our swords like plowshares.


Tutu had always described South Africa as “the rainbow nation” because of its multiracial population. After the end of apartheid and the emergence of Nelson Mandela as the first black president of South Africa in 1994, the name stuck.

He was appointed head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR), which investigated allegations of human rights violations during the apartheid era.

He proposed that the TRC take a three-fold approach which he said “the first being confession, with those responsible for human rights violations fully disclosing their activities, the second being forgiveness in the form of amnesty legal prosecution, and the third being restitution, with perpetrators making amends to their victims ”.


AP Photo / Themba Hadebe

Tutu retired from the church in 1996 to face the TRC and its straightforward commitment. But he was still an important member of the Anglican Church in the country and around the world. However, he began to have problems with the church because of his pro-gay views, which Anglican teaching considers “un-Christian.”

After the bishops stressed the church’s anti-LGBT stance at the 1998 Lambeth Conference, Tutu wrote to George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, saying, “I’m ashamed to be Anglican.”

Then he said in 2013 that “I would refuse to go to a homophobic paradise. No, I would say sorry, I mean, I would much rather go to the other place. I wouldn’t worship a homophobic God, and that’s how I feel deeply about it. I am as passionate about this campaign as I have always been about apartheid. For me, it’s at the same level ”.

Tutu will be unforgettable for, among other things, the passionate conviction and sincerity of the purpose with which he has defended many causes during his life.