Desmond Mpilo Tutu (1931–2021) — The Guardian Editorial

Posted by News Express | 8 January 2022 | 688 times

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•Late Archbishop Desmond Tutu


On December 26th, 2021, barely a week to welcome the New Year, the globally renowned former Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Mpilo Tutu, joined his ancestors. This was after an enduring struggle against prostate cancer that was first diagnosed in 1997.

True to the Shakespearean saying that “When beggars die there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes,” so was his passing. Like a comet, the news of his death aroused a frenzy of tributes around the world.

It is well-known that historical personages come in different shades. They are truly distinguished by the services they render to humanity. Archbishop Tutu is a historical figure who was distinguished by his service to humanity. His exertions against the apartheid system and its output in gross human rights violation stood him out. Indeed, he used numerous postings in the Anglican Church and wider ecumenical circle to advance the struggle to free South Africa.

Born on October 7, 1931, Archbishop was first Bishop of Johannesburg from 1985 to 1986 and then Archbishop of Cape Town from 1986 to 1996.

In 1978, he became the leader of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), an interdenominational forum in South Africa that was prominent in the anti-apartheid struggle.

With a clear objective for a democratic society, he campaigned for equal civil rights for all; the abolition of South Africa’s passport laws; a common system of education; and the cessation of forced deportation from South Africa to the self-styled “homelands” created by the apartheid system. These minimum objectives of his aligned with the content and spirit of the 1955 Freedom Charter of the African National Congress (ANC) that envisaged a democratic and majority rule in South Africa. Following the 1994 general election, he headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses committed by the contending social forces in the apartheid system.

President Cyril Ramaphosa was on point in his tribute when he noted thus: “Yet if we are to understand a global icon to be someone of great moral stature, of exceptional qualities and of service to humanity, there can be no doubt that it refers to the man we are laying to rest today…Our departed father was a crusader in the struggle for freedom, for justice, for equality and for peace, not just in South Africa, the country of his birth, but around the world as well.”

Beyond South Africa, the Archbishop spread his campaign for justice and human rights to the rest of the world. For example, in the 1970s, he expressed concern at the hatred for the Igbo in Nigeria following the fratricidal war of 1967-1970. Also, during the dark days of the Abacha dictatorship, he lent his voice to the illegal incarceration of Chief M.K.O Abiola. He was also appalled by the misgovernance in Mobutu Sese Seko’s Zaire, now Congo DRC, and took a swipe at Israel’s antipathy towards the Palestinians qualified as another form of apartheid. Besides, he opposed the Iraqi war and did this with his bishopric licence and zeal. He was a veritable voice from the pulpit. He stood for peace and non-violence approach to the resolution of conflicts. No wonder he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 “for his role as a unifying leader figure in the non-violent campaign to resolve the problem of apartheid in South Africa.”

Post-apartheid leadership in South Africa did not escape his scrutiny. He took a swipe at the governance outputs of presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma. Perhaps, the reason why President Ramaphosa noted that “Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been our moral compass and national conscience… Even after the advent of democracy, he did not hesitate to draw attention, often harshly, to our shortcomings as leaders of the democratic State…He saw our country as a ‘rainbow nation,’ emerging from the shadow of apartheid, united in its diversity, with freedom and equal rights for all.” Indeed, Nomsa Maseko of the BBC news looked at Archbishop’s moral capital with a sense of loss. As he put it, “The last of South Africa’s well-known freedom fighters leaves behind a difficult task for the leaders of the nation: to rid the country of corruption and racial divisions and lead the way forward, in the spirit of the moral compass which was the guiding force of Tutu’s leadership.”

Tutu, a recipient of the Order for Meritorious Service, South Africa’s highest honour, was scholarly engaged. He was a visiting professor at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the University of North and Kings College London, his alma mater.

In his lifetime, he led an impactful life that we cannot but agree with President Ramahosa’s befitting epithet: “Tears are sometimes an inappropriate response to death… “When a life has been lived completely honestly, completely successfully, or just completely, the correct response to death’s perfect punctuation mark, is a smile.” His was a life lived honestly and completely. He has left the world a better place. We remember him with a smile.”

Farewell indeed to the Archbishop. His death is a big challenge for Africa for the continuation of his legacy and the replication of his likes in a continent in dire need of genuine leadership.

Source: News Express

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