Remarkable People

ID #5245

Desmond Tutu 3 Anti-Apartheid Activist.

In 1955 Tutu married Nomalizo Leah Shenxane, a teacher he met at college. They had four children: Trevor, Theresa, Naomi and Mpho, all of whom attended Waterford Kamhlaba School in Swaziland.

His son, Trevor caused a bomb scare at East London Airport in 1989. He was arrested and in 1991 was convicted of contravening the Civil Aviation Act by falsely claiming there had been a bomb aboard a South African Airways plane. The threat delayed the Johannesburg-bound flight for more than three hours, costing the airline R28000. At the time, Trevor announced his intention to appeal against his sentence but failed to arrive for the hearing. He forfeited his bail of R15000. He was due to begin serving his sentence in 1993 but failed to hand himself over to prison authorities and was finally arrested in Johannesburg in August 1997. He applied for amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was granted in 1997. He was released from Goodwood Prison in Cape Town where he had begun serving his three-and-a-half year prison sentence after a court in East London refused to grant him bail.

Naomi Tutu founded the Tutu Foundation for Development and Relief in Southern Africa, based in Hartford, Connecticut. She followed in her father's footsteps as a human rights activist and is currently a program coordinator for the Race Relations Institute at Fisk University, in Nashville, Tennessee. His other daughter Mpho also followed in her father's footsteps and in 2004 was ordained an Episcopal priest by her father. She is also the founder and executive director of the Tutu Institute for Prayer and Pilgrimage and the chairperson of the board of the Global AIDS Alliance.

In 1997, Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent successful treatment in the US. He subsequently became patron of the South African Prostate Cancer Foundation which was established in 2007. In 1976 protests in Soweto turned into a massive uprising against apartheid. From then on Tutu supported economic boycotts of the country. He vigorously opposed the Reagan administration’s policy of constructive engagement policy. Instead, Tutu supported disinvestment in spite of the fact that it hit the poor hardest. Tutu argued that if disinvestment threw blacks out of work, they would at least be suffering "with a purpose". In 1985, the US and the UK blocked any further investment which caused the value of the Rand to plunge and pressurized the government to reform. Tutu pressed home the advantage and organized peaceful marches which brought 30,000 people onto the streets of Cape Town.

Tutu was Bishop of Lesotho from 1976 until 1978, when he became Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches. From this position, he was able to continue his work against apartheid with the agreement of most churches. He consistently advocated reconciliation between all parties involved in apartheid through his writings and lectures at home and abroad.

Tutu's opposition to apartheid was vigorous and unequivocal, and he was outspoken both in both South Africa and abroad. He often compared apartheid to Nazism and Communism. As a result, the government twice revoked his passport and he was jailed briefly in 1980 after a protest march. It was thought that Tutu's international reputation and his rigorous advocacy of non-violence protected him from harsher penalties. Tutu was also harsh in his criticism of the tactics of some anti-apartheid groups such as the ANC and denounced terrorism and communism.

When a new constitution was proposed in 1983, Tutu helped form the National Forum Committee to fight the constitutional changes. Despite his opposition to apartheid Tutu was criticized for "selective indignation" by his passive attitude towards the regime in Lesotho (1970–86), where he had taught from 1970–2 and served as Bishop 1976–1978, leaving as civil war broke out. This contrasted poorly with the courageous stance of Lesotho Evangelical Church personnel who were murdered.

In 1990, Tutu and the ex-Vice Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape, Professor Jakes Gerwel, founded the Desmond Tutu Educational Trust. It was established to fund developmental programmes in tertiary education and provides capacity building at 17 historically-disadvantaged institutions. Tutu's work as a mediator was evident at the funeral of South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani in 1993. Tutu spurred a crowd of 120,000 to repeat after him the chants, over and over: "We will be free!", "All of us!", "Black and white together!" and finished his speech saying:

"We are the rainbow people of God! We are unstoppable! Nobody can stop us on our march to victory! No one, no guns, nothing! Nothing will stop us, for we are moving to freedom! We are moving to freedom and nobody can stop us! For God is on our side!"

In 1993 he was a patron of the Cape Town Olympic Bid Committee. In 1994, he was appointed patron of the World Campaign against Military and Nuclear Collaboration with South Africa, Beacon Millennium and Action from Ireland. In 1995, he was appointed a Chaplain and Sub-Prelate of the Venerable Order of Saint John by Queen Elizabeth II and became a patron of the American Harmony Child Foundation and the Hospice Association of Southern Africa.

After the fall of apartheid, Tutu headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He retired as Archbishop of Cape Town in 1996 and was made emeritus Archbishop of Cape Town, an honorary title unusual in the Anglican Church. He was succeeded by Njongonkulu Ndungane.

At a thanksgiving for Tutu upon his retirement, Nelson Mandela said: “His joy in our diversity and his spirit of forgiveness are as much part of his immeasurable contribution to our nation as his passion for justice and his solidarity with the poor”.

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Last update: 2014-03-17 02:25
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.3

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