Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and veteran of South Africa’s struggle against white minority rule, has died aged 90, the country’s President 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,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said.
Archbishop Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the late 1990s and in recent years was hospitalised on several occasions to treat infections associated with his cancer treatment.
“Ultimately, at the age of 90, he died peacefully at the Oasis Frail Care Centre in Cape Town this morning,” Dr Ramphela Mamphele, acting chairperson of the Archbishop Desmond Tutu IP Trust and Coordinator of the Office of the Archbishop, said in a statement on behalf of the Tutu family.
She did not give details on the cause of death.
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. pic.twitter.com/vjzFb3QrNZ
— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿🇦 (@CyrilRamaphosa) December 26, 2021
The outspoken former Cape Town archbishop 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 Archbishop Tutu’s broad appeal.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
Thank you for giving us hope, for being that light for so many years.
Your legacy will live on.
Rest in peace Archbishop Desmond Tutu 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/xlRiAMWVRP
— ActionSA (@Action4SA) December 26, 2021
He described voting in South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994 as “like falling in love”, a remark that captured both his puckish humour and his profound emotions after decades fighting apartheid.
In 1984, the archbishop won the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent opposition to apartheid.
A decade later, he witnessed the end of that regime and chaired a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up to unearth atrocities committed during white rule.
Archbishop Tutu’s death comes just over a month after the passing of South Africa’s last apartheid-era president, FW de Klerk, who died at the age of 85 on November 11.
“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, [the Archbishop] distinguished himself as a non-sectarian, inclusive champion of universal human rights,” Mr Ramaphosa said.