ARCHBISHOP Desmond Tutu, who helped to end apartheid in South Africa, has died aged 90.
The human rights activist was the last surviving South African laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize, and passed away in Cape Town.
He was an outspoken critic of the country’s previous brutal system of oppression against the country’s Black majority.
The activist was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his campaign of non-violent opposition to South Africa’s white minority rule.
In a statement minister in the presidency Mondli Gungubele said President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his “profound sadness” at his passing.
President Ramaphosa said: “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 SA.
“Desmond Tutu was a patriot without equal; a leader of principle and pragmatism who gave meaning to the biblical insight that faith without works is dead.
“A man of extraordinary intellect, integrity and invincibility against the forces of apartheid, he was also tender and vulnerable in his compassion for those who had suffered oppression, injustice and violence under apartheid, and oppressed and downtrodden people around the world.”
Archbishop Tutu leaves behind his wife Mam Leah Tutu, who has been described as his “soul mate and source of strength” as well as four children and several grandchildren.
A statement on behalf of his family, from Dr Ramphela Mamphele, described him as a man who “turned his own misfortune into a teaching opportunity to raise awareness and reduce the suffering of others.”
It added: “He wanted the world to know that he had prostate cancer, and that the sooner it is detected the better the chance of managing it.
“Ultimately, at the age of 90, he died peacefully at the Oasis Frail Care Centre in Cape Town this morning.
“Courageous, gracious, and concerned for the welfare of others to the very end.
“As Mrs Tutu says, although he was not physically imposing, he had the inner strength of a lion.”
“He wanted the world to know that he had prostate cancer, and that the sooner it is detected the better the chance of managing it.”
Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the late 1990s and in recent years he was hospitalised on several occasions to treat infections associated with his treatment.
Ms Mamphele did not give details on the cause of death.
Tributes for the Archbishop have flooded in, with Piers Morgan saying: “RIP Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 90.
“A magnificently charismatic & heroic figure who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his relentless campaign against Apartheid in South Africa.
“Love his quote: ‘If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.’”
The Archbishop of Canterbury said: “Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a prophet and priest, a man of words and action – one who embodied the hope and joy that were the foundations of his life.
“Even in our profound sorrow we give thanks for a life so well lived. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”
The Dalai Lama composed a letter to the Archbishop’s daughter, Rev. Mpho Tutu, writing: “Archbishop Desmond Tutu was entirely dedicated to serving his brothers and sisters for the greater common good.
“He was a true humanitarian and a committed advocate of human rights. His work for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was an inspiration for others around the world.
“With his passing away, we have lost a great man, who lived a truly meaningful life.
“He was devoted to the service of others, especially those who are least fortunate.
“I am convinced the best tribute we can pay him and keep his spirit alive is to do as he did and constantly look to see how we too can be of help to others.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Courageous, gracious, and concerned for the welfare of others to the very end.
Dr Ramphela Mamphele
“He was a critical figure in the fight against apartheid and in the struggle to create a new South Africa – and will be remembered for his spiritual leadership and irrepressible good humour.”
The Nelson Mandela Foundation added:”His contributions to struggles against injustice, locally and globally, are matched only by the depth of his thinking about the making of liberatory futures for human societies.
“He was an extraordinary human being. A thinker. A leader. A shepherd.”
Born in 1931 in Klerksdorp, Transvaal, South Africa, he became the first Black Anglican Archbishop of both Cape Town and Johannesburg.
During the 1980s, he played a role in drawing national and international attention to the iniquities of apartheid.
He later chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and has continued to draw attention to a number of social justice issues over the years.
In 1993, South African apartheid finally came to an end, and in 1994, South Africans elected Nelson Mandela as their first black president.
President Mandela also appointed Tutu to head the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, tasked with investigating and reporting on the atrocities committed by both sides in the struggle over apartheid.
In his final years, he regretted that his dream of a “Rainbow Nation” had not yet come true.
Asked on his retirement as Archbishop of Cape Town in 1996 if he had any regrets, Tutu said: “The struggle tended to make one abrasive and more than a touch self-righteous.
“I hope that people will forgive me any hurts I may have caused them.”
STRENGTH OF A LION
In December 2003, he rebuked his government for its support for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, despite growing criticism over his human rights record.
He also criticised South African President Thabo Mbeki for his public questioning of the link between HIV and AIDS, saying Mbeki’s international profile had been tarnished.
A schoolteacher’s son, Tutu was born in Klerksdorp, a conservative town west of Johannesburg, on October 7, 1931.
He initially worked as a teacher, but quit in 1957 to join the church, studying first at St. Peter’s Theological College in Johannesburg.
He was ordained a priest in 1961 and continued his education at King’s College in London, before becoming Anglican Dean of Johannesburg in 1975.
Tutu was named the first Black Archbishop of Cape Town in 1986, becoming the head of the Anglican Church, South Africa’s fourth largest. He would retain that position until 1996.
In one of his last public appearances, he hosted Prince Harry, Meghan and their four-month-old son Archie at his charitable foundation in Cape Town in September 2019, calling them a “genuinely caring” couple.