Desmond Tutu

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The Most Reverend
Desmond Tutu
Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town
Church Anglican Church of Southern Africa
See Cape Town (retired)
Installed 7 September 1986
Term ended 1996
Predecessor Philip Russell
Successor Njongonkulu Ndungane
Other posts Bishop of Lesotho
Bishop of Johannesburg
Archbishop of Cape Town
Ordination Deacon 1960
Priest 1961
Consecration 1976
Personal details
Birth name Desmond Mpilo Tutu
Born (1931-10-07) 7 October 1931 (age 86)
Klerksdorp, Western Transvaal, South Africa
Spouse Nomalizo Leah Shenxane (m. 1955)
Education King's College London
Alma mater King's College London
Signature Desmond Tutu's signature
Styles of
Desmond Tutu
Mitre (plain).svg
Reference style Archbishop
Spoken style Your Grace
Religious style The Most Reverend

Desmond Mpilo Tutu OMSG CH (born 7 October 1931) is a South African Anglican clergyman and theologian known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist. He was the Bishop of Johannesburg from 1985 to 1986 and then the Archbishop of Cape Town from 1986 to 1996, in both cases being the first black man to hold the position. Theologically, he sought to fuse ideas from black theology with African theology; politically, he identifies as a socialist.

Born to a poor family in Klerksdorp, Tutu is of mixed Xhosa and Motswana heritage. Moving around South Africa as a child, he trained as a teacher and married Nomalizo Leah Tutu, with whom he had several children. In 1960, he was ordained as a priest and in 1962 moved to the United Kingdom to study undergraduate and master's degrees in theology at King's College London. In 1966 he returned to southern Africa, teaching at the Federal Theological Seminary and then the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. In 1972, he returned to London as the Theological Education Fund's director for Africa, necessitating regular tours of the continent. Back in southern Africa in 1975, he served first as dean of St Mary's Cathedral, Johannesburg and then Bishop of Lesotho, taking an active role in opposition to South Africa's apartheid system of racial segregation and white-minority rule. From 1978 to 1985 he was general-secretary of the South African Council of Churches, emerging as one of South Africa's most prominent anti-apartheid activists. He stressed non-violent protest while warning of impending racial violence, and called for foreign economic pressure; this earned the antipathy of the National Party government and its supporters.

After Nelson Mandela was freed from prison in 1990 and negotiated the dissolution of apartheid with President F. W. de Klerk, Tutu became a supporter of the new government. Mandela selected Tutu to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses. Since apartheid's fall, Tutu has campaigned on other social justice issues; combating poverty, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis, as well as opposition to forms of prejudice like racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia.

Tutu polarised opinion as he rose to notability in the 1970s. Apartheid supporters despised him, while many white liberals regarded him as too radical. He was widely popular among the black majority and has been internationally praised for his anti-apartheid activism. Among the awards he has received is the Nobel Peace Prize. He had attracted some criticism for his views on Zionism and the Israel-Palestine conflict. He has also compiled several books of his speeches and sayings.


Early life

Childhood: 1931–1950

Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born on 7 October 1931 in Klerksdorp, a city in northwest South Africa.[1] His mother, Allen Dorothea Mavoertsek Mathlare, was born to a Motswana family in Boksburg.[2] His father, Zachariah Zelilo Tutu, was from the anaMfengu branch of Xhosa and had grown up in Gcuwa, Eastern Cape.[3] At home, the couple both spoke Xhosa.[4] Zachariah trained as a primary school teacher at Lovedale college before taking a post in Boksburg, where he married his wife.[5] In the late 1920s, he took a job in Klerksdorp; in the Afrikaaner-founded city, he and his wife resided in the black residential area. Established in 1907, it was then known as the "native location" although was later renamed Makoetend.[6] The native location housed a diverse community; although most were Tswana, it also housed Xhosa, Sotho, and a few Indian traders.[7] Zachariah worked as the principle of a Methodist primary school and the family lived in the schoolmaster's house, a small mud-brick building in the yard of the Methodist mission.[8]

Church of Christ the King
The Church of Christ the King in Sophiatown, where Tutu was a server under priest Trevor Huddlestone

The Tutus were poor;[9] describing his family, Tutu later related that "although we weren't affluent, we were not destitute either".[10] Tutu had an older sister Sylvia, who called him "Mpilo" ("life"), a name given to him by his paternal grandmother.[11] The rest of the family called him "Boy".[12] He was his parent's second son; their firstborn boy, Sipho, had died in infancy.[12] Tutu was sickly from birth;[13] polio resulted in the atrophy of his right hand,[12] and another time he was hospitalised with serious burns.[14] Tutu had a close relationship and was fond of his father, although was angered at the latter's heavy drinking, during which he would sometimes beat his wife.[15] The family were initially Methodists and Tutu was baptised into the Methodist Church in June 1932.[16] They subsequently changed denominations, first to the African Methodist Episcopal Church and then to the Anglican Church.[16]

In 1936, the family moved to Tshing, where Zachariah was employed as the principle of a Methodist school; they lived in a hut in the school yard.[14] There, Tutu started his primary education and played football with the other children,[10] also becoming the server at St Francis Anglican Church.[17] He developed a love of reading, particularly enjoying comic books and European fairy tales.[18] Here, he also learned Afrikaans, the main language of the area.[18] It was in Tshing that his parents had a third son, Tamsanqa, who also died in infancy.[10] Around 1941, Tutu's mother moved to Witwatersrand to work as a cook at Ezenzeleni, an institute for the blind in western Johannesburg. Tutu joined her in the city, first living with an aunt in Roodepoort West before they secured their own house in the township.[19] In Johannesburg, he attended a Methodist primary school before transferring to the Swedish Boarding School (SBS) in the St Agnes Mission.[20] Several months later, he moved with his father to Ermelo, eastern Transvaal.[21] After six months, the duo returned to live with the rest of the family in Roodepoort West, where Tutu resuming his studies at SBS.[21] He had pursued his interest in Christianity and at the age of 12 underwent confirmation at St Mary's Church, Roodepoort.[22]

Tutu failed the arithmetic component of his primary school exam, but despite this, his father secured him entry to the Johannesburg Bantu High School in 1945, where he excelled academically.[23] There, he joined a school rugby team, developing a lifelong love of the sport.[24] Outside of school, he earned money selling oranges and as a caddy for white golfers.[25] To avoid the expense of a daily train commute to school, he briefly lived with family nearer to Johannesburg, before moving back in with his parents when they relocated to Munsieville.[26] He returned to Johannesburg by moving into a hostel that was part of the Anglican complex surrounding the Church of Christ the King in Sophiatown.[27] He became a server at the church and came under the influence of its priest, Trevor Huddleston.[28] In 1947, Tutu contracted tuberculosis and was hospitalised in Rietfontein for 18 months, during which he spent much of his time reading.[29] In the hospital, he underwent a circumcision to mark his transition to manhood.[30] He returned to school in 1949 and took his national exams in late 1950, gaining a second-class pass.[31]

College and teaching career: 1951–1955

Wanting to become a doctor, Tutu secured admission to study medicine at the University of the Witwatersrand; however, his parents could not afford the tuition fees.[31] Instead, he turned toward teaching, gaining a government scholarship to start a course at Pretoria Bantu Normal College, a teacher training institution, in 1951.[32] There, he served as treasurer of the Student Representative Councillor, helping to organise the Literacy and Dramatic Society, and chairing the Cultural and Debating Society for two years.[33] It was during one local debating event that he first met the lawyer and future President Nelson Mandela; the latter did not remember the meeting and they would not encounter each other again until 1990.[34] At the college, he attained his Transvaal Bantu Teachers Diploma, having gained advice about taking exams from the activist Robert Sobukwe.[35] He had also taken five correspondence courses provided by the University of South Africa (UNISA), graduating in the same class as future Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe.[36]

In 1954 he began teaching English at Madibane High School; the following year, he transferred to the Krugersdorp High School, where he taught English and history.[37] He began courting Nomalizo Leah Shenxane, a friend of his sister Gloria who was studying to become a primary school teacher.[38] They were legally married at Krugersdorp Native Commissioner's Court in June 1955, before undergoing a Roman Catholic wedding ceremony at the Church of Mary Queen of Apostles; although he was a Protestant, Tutu had agreed to the ceremony due to Leah's Roman Catholic faith.[39] The newly married couple initially lived in a room at Tutu's parental home before renting their own home six months later.[40] Their first child, Trevor, was born in April 1956;[41] their first daughter, Thandeka, appeared 16 months later.[42] The couple worshipped at St Paul's Church, where Tutu volunteered as a Sunday school teacher, assistant choirmaster, church councillor, lay preacher, and sub-deacon,[42] while outside of the church he also volunteered as a football administrator for a local team.[40]

Joining the clergy: 1956–1966

Tutu first ministered to a white congregation at the Church of St Alban the Martyr in Golder's Green, living with his family in the curate's flat

In 1953, the far-right National Party government had introduced the Bantu Education Act as a means of furthering their apartheid cause; both Tutu and his wife disliked these reforms and decided to leave the teaching profession.[43] With Huddleston's support, Tutu left the teaching profession to become an Anglican priest.[44] In January 1956, his request to join the Ordinands Guild was turned down due to the debts he had accrued; these were then paid off by the wealthy industrialist and philanthropist Henry Oppenheimer.[45] Tutu was admitted to St Peter's Theological College in Rosettenville, Johannesburg, which was run by the Anglican Community of the Resurrection.[46] The college was residential, and Tutu lived there while his wife moved to train as a nurse in Sekhukhuneland and his children lived with his parents in Munsieville.[47] In August 1960, his wife gave birth to another daughter, Naomi.[48]

At the college, Tutu studied the Bible, Anglican doctrine, church history, and Christian ethics.[49] The college's principal, Godfrey Pawson, wrote that Tutu "has exceptional knowledge and intelligence and is very industrious. At the same time he shows no arrogance, mixes in well and is popular... He has obvious gifts of leadership."[50] He won the archbishop's annual essay prize for his discussion of Christianity and Islam.[51] During his years at the college, there had been an intensification in anti-apartheid activism in South Africa, accompanied by a growing government crackdown on this dissent; in March 1960 several hundred casualties resulted from the Sharpeville massacre.[52] Tutu and his other trainees did not mobilise in support of the anti-apartheid movement; he later noted that "we were in some ways a very apolitical bunch".[53]

During his master's degree, Tutu worked as assistant curate at St Mary's Church in Bletchingley, Surrey

In December 1960, Edward Paget ordained Tutu as an Anglican minister at St Mary's Cathedral.[54] Tutu was then appointed assistant curate in St Alban's Parish, Benoni, where he was reunited with his wife and children; they lived in a converted garage.[54] He earned 72.50 rand a month, which was two-thirds of what his white counterparts were given.[55] In 1962, Tutu was transferred to St Philip's Church in Thokoza, where he was placed in charge of the congregation and developed a passion for pastoral ministry.[56] Many in South Africa's white-dominated Anglican establishment felt the need for a greater number of indigenous Africans in positions of ecclesiastical authority; to assist in this, Aelfred Stubbs proposed that Tutu be trained as a theology teacher at King's College London (KCL) in Britain.[57] Funding was secured from the International Missionary Council's Theological Education Fund (TEF),[58] and the government agreed to give the Tutus permission to move to Britain.[59]

At KCL's theology department, Tutu studied under theologians like Dennis Nineham, Christopher Evans, Sydney Evans, Geoffrey Parrinden, and Eric Mascall.[60] In London, the Tutus felt liberated experiencing a life free from apartheid and the pass laws of South Africa;[61] he later noted that "there is racism in England, but we were not exposed to it".[62] The family moved into the curate's flat behind the Church of St Alban the Martyr in Golders Green; they were allowed to live rent-free on the condition that Tutu assisted Sunday services, the first time that he had ministered to a white congregation.[63] It was in the flat that a daughter, Mpho Andrea, was born in 1963.[64] Tutu was academically successful and his tutors suggested that he convert to a honours degree, which entailed him also studying Hebrew.[65]

Nearing the end of his bachelor of arts studies, he decided to continue on to a master's degree, securing a TEF grant to fund it;[66] he studied for this degree from October 1965 until September 1966, completing his dissertation on Islam in West Africa.[67] During this period, the family moved from Golders Green to Bletchingley in Surrey, where Tutu worked as the assistant curate of St Mary's Church.[68] In the village, he encouraged cooperation between his Anglican parishioners and the local Roman Catholic and Methodist communities.[69] Tutu's time in London helped him to jettison any bitterness to whites and feelings of racial inferiority; he overcame his habit of automatically deferring to whites.[70]

Career during apartheid

Teaching in South Africa and Lesotho: 1966–1972

In 1966, the Tutus left the UK and travelled, via Paris and Rome, to East Jerusalem.[71] Spending two months in the city, Tutu studied Arabic and Greek at St George's College.[72] He was shocked at the level of tension between the city's Jewish and Arab citizens.[73] From there, the family returned to South Africa, spending Christmas with family in Witwatersrand.[74] They found it difficult readjusting to a society where they were impacted by segregation and pass laws.[74] He explored the possibility on conducting a PhD at UNISA, on the subject of Moses in the Quran, but this project never materialised.[75] In 1967 they proceeded to Alice, Eastern Cape, where the Federal Theological Seminary (Fedsem) had recently been established, an amalgamation of training institutions from different Christian denominations.[76] There, Tutu was employed teaching doctrine, the Old Testament, and Greek.[77] Tutu was the college's first black staff-member, with most of the others being European or American expatriates.[78] The campus allowed a level of racial-mixing which was absent in most of South African society.[79] Leah also gained employment there, as a library assistant.[79] They sent their children to a private boarding school in Swaziland, thereby ensuring that they were not instructed under the government's Bantu Education syllabus.[80]

While at St Peter's, Tutu had also joined a pan-Protestant group, the Church Unity Commission, and served as a delegate at Anglican-Catholic conversations in southern Africa.[81] It was also at this point that he began publishing in academic journals and journals of current affairs.[81] Tutu was also appointed as the Anglican chaplain to the neighbouring University of Fort Hare.[82] In an unusual move for the time, he invited female students become servers during the Eucharist alongside their male counterparts.[83] He joined Anglican student delegations to meetings of the Anglican Students' Federation and the University Christian Movement.[84] It was from this environment that the Black Consciousness Movement emerged under the leadership of figures like Steve Biko and Barney Pityana; although not averse to working with other racial groups to fight apartheid, Tutu was supportive of their efforts.[85] In August 1968, he gave a sermon comparing the situation in South Africa with that in the Eastern Bloc, likening anti-apartheid protests to the recent Prague Spring.[86] In September, Fort Hare students held a sit-in protest at the university administration's policies; after they were surrounded by police with dogs, Tutu waded into the crowd to pray with the protesters.[87] This was the first time that he had witnessed state power used to suppress dissent, and he cried during public prayers the next day.[88]

Although plans were afoot for Tutu to become Vice Principal of Fedsem, he decided to leave the seminary to accept a teaching post at the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (UBLS) in Roma, Lesotho.[89] The new position allowed him to live closer to his children and offered twice the salary he earned at Fedsem.[89] In January 1970, he and his wife moved to the UBLS campus; most of his fellow staff members were white expatriates from the U.S. or Britain although the university's policy was non-racial and inclusive.[90] As well as his teaching position, he also became the college's Anglican chaplain and the warden of two student residences.[91] In Lesotho, he joined the executive board of the Lesotho Ecumenical Association and served as an external examiner for both Fedsem and Rhodes University.[81] He returned to South Africa on several occasions, including to visit his father shortly before the latter's death in February 1971.[81]

Africa Director for the TEF: 1972–1975

Black theology seeks to make sense of the life experience of the black man, which is largely black suffering at the hands of rampant white racism, and to understand this in the light of what God has said about himself, about man, and about the world in his very definite Word... Black theology has to do with whether it is possible to be black and continue to be Christian; it is to ask on whose side is God; it is to be concerned about the humanisation of man, because those who ravage our humanity dehumanise themselves in the process; [it says] that the liberation of the black man is the other side of the liberation of the white man—so it is concerned with human liberation.
— Desmond Tutu, in a conference paper presented at the Union Theological Seminary, 1973[92]

The TEF offered Tutu a job as their director for Africa, a position that would require relocating to London. Tutu agreed, although was initially refused permission to leave by the South African authorities; they regarded him with suspicion ever since his involvement in the Fort Hare student protests and were also increasingly antagonistic toward the WCC, which ran the TEF, bceause it had condemned apartheid as un-Christian. After Tutu insisted that taking the position would be good publicity for South Africa, the authorities relented.[93] In March 1972, he returned to Britain. The TEF's headquarters were in Bromley, a town in the southeast of the city, with the Tutu family settling in nearby Grove Park, where Tutu became honorary curate of St Augustine's Church.[94]

Tutu's job entailed assessing grants to theological training institutions and students.[95] This required him touring much of Africa in the early 1970s, and he wrote accounts of his experiences.[96] In Zaire, he for instance lamented the widespread corruption and poverty, while complaining that Mobutu Sese Seko's "military regime... is extremely galling to a black from South Africa".[97] In Nigeria, he first witnessed the interaction between Christians and Muslims in real life, and expressed concern at the Igbo people's resentment following the crushing of their Republic of Biafra.[98] In 1972 he travelled around East Africa, where he was impressed by Jomo Kenyatta's Kenyan government and witnessed Idi Amin's expulsion of Ugandan Asians.[99] Back in England, he experienced one of his only racist encounters in the country when a stranger told him "You bastard, get back to Uganda", mistaking him for a Ugandan Asian refugee.[100] He also acknowledged that he retained his own subconscious anti-black racist thoughts; when on a Nigerian plane, he felt a "nagging worry" on discovering that both pilot and co-pilot were black, having been conditioned to thinking that only whites could be entrusted with such positions of responsibility.[101]

During the early 1970s, Tutu's theology fundamentally changed as a result both of his experiences in Africa and his discovery of liberation theology, a movement introduced to him by the TEF's associate director for Latin America, Aharon Sapsezian.[102] On discovering black theology, he had been immediately attracted to it,[103] in 1973 attending a conference on the subject at New York City's Union Theological Seminary.[104] There, he presented a paper in which he stated that "black theology is an engaged not an academic, detached theology. It is a gut level theology, relating to the real concerns, the life and death issues of the black man."[105] He stated that his paper was not an attempt to demonstrate the academic respectability of black theology but rather to make "a straightforward, perhaps shrill, statement about an existent. Black theology is. No permission is being requested for it to come into being... Frankly the time has passed when we will wait for the white man to give us permission to do out thing. Whether or not he accepts the intellectual respectability of our activity is largely irrelevant. We will proceed regardless."[106] Tutu sought to fuse the African-American derived black theology with African theology, an approach which contrasted with that of other African theologians like John Mbiti who regarded black theology as a foreign import not relevant to the African situation.[104]

Dean of Johannesburg and Bishop of Lesotho: 1975–1978

In 1975, Tutu was nominated to be the new Bishop of Johannesburg, although lost out to Timothy Bavin.[101] Bavin suggested that Tutu take his newly vacated position, that of the dean of St Mary's Cathedral, Johannesburg. Tutu was elected to this position—the fourth highest in South Africa's Anglican hierarchy—in March 1975, becoming the first black man to do so, an appointment making headline news in South Africa.[107] Tutu decided to return to South Africa, a decision opposed by Leah, resulting in a strain on their marriage.[108] Tutu was officially installed as dean in an August 1975 ceremony. The cathedral was packed for the event; in attendance was the TEF's chairman, Archibishop Karekin Sarkissian of the Armenian Orthodox Church.[109] Moving to the city, Tutu lived not in the official dean's residence in the white suburb of Houghton but rather in a middle-class street in the Orlando West township of Soweto, a largely impoverished area for blacks.[110] The cathedral's congregation was racially mixed but with a white majority; this mixing gave Tutu hope that a racially equal, de-segregated future was possible for South Africa.[111] He attempted to modernise the liturgies used by the cathedral's congregation although found that this was not desired by most.[112] He also divided opinion among the congregation for his support of the ordination of women and for replacing masculine pronouns with gender neutral ones in his sermons and liturgy.[113]

As Bishop of Lesotho, Tutu travelled around the country's mountains visiting the people living there

Tutu used his position to speak out about what he regarded as social injustice.[113] He met with Black Consciousness Movement figures like Mamphela Ramphele and Soweto community leaders like Nthano Motlana,[114] and publicly endorsed international economic boycott of South Africa over its apartheid policy.[115] He opposed the government's Terrorism Act, 1967 and shared a platform with anti-apartheid campaigner Winnie Mandela in condemning it.[116] He held a 24-hour vigil for racial harmony at the cathedral where he included special prayers for those activists detained under the act.[117] In May 1976, he wrote a letter to Prime Minister B. J. Vorster, urging him to dismantle apartheid and warning that if the government continued enforcing this policy then the country would erupt in racial violence.[118] Six weeks later, the Soweto Uprising broke out as black youth protesting the introduction of Afrikaans as the mandatory language of instruction clashed with police. Over the course of ten months, at least 660 were killed, the majority of them under the age of 24.[119] Tutu was upset by what he regarded as the lack of outrage from South Africa's white community; he raised the issue in his Sunday sermon, stating that the white silence was "deafening" and asking if they would have shown the same nonchalance had the school children killed by police and pro-government paramilitaries been white.[120]

Tutu had been scheduled to serve a seven-year term as dean, however after seven months he was nominated as a candidate in an election for the position of Bishop of Lesotho.[121] Although Tutu stipulated that he did not want the position, he was elected to the position regardless in March 1976, at which he reluctantly accepted it.[122] This decision upset some of his congregation, who felt that he had used their parish as a stepping stone for his personal career advancement.[123] In July, Bill Burnett consecrated Tutu as a bishop at St Mary's Cathedral.[124] In August, Tutu was enthroned as the Bishop of Lesotho in a ceremony at Maseru's Cathedral of St Mary and St James; thousands attended, including King Moshoeshoe II and Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan.[124] In this position, he travelled around the diocese, often visiting parishes in the mountains.[125] He learned the Sesotho language and developed a deep affection for the country.[126] He appointed Philip Mokuku as the first dean of the diocese and places great emphasis on further education for the Basotho clergy.[127] He befriended the royal family although his relationship with Jonathan's right-wing government, of which he disapproved, was strained.[128] In September 1977 he returned to South Africa after being invited to speak at the Eastern Cape funeral of Black Consciousness activist Steve Biko, who had been killed by police while in their custody.[129] At the funeral, Tutu stated that Black Consciousness was "a movement by which God, through Steve, sought to awaken in the black person a sense of his intrinsic value and worth as a child of God".[130]

General-Secretary of the South African Council of Churches: 1978–1985

We in the SACC believe in a non-racial South Africa where people count because they are made in the image of God. So the SACC is neither a black nor a white organization. It is a Christian organization with a definite bias in favour of the oppressed and the exploited ones of our society.
— Desmond Tutu, on the SACC[131]

Tutu was nominated to succeed John Rees as the general secretary of the South African Council of Churches although John Thorne was instead elected. He however stepped down from the position after three months, at which Tutu was nominated once more, this time being selected. Tutu was unsure whether to accept, but agreed to do so at the urging of the synod of bishops.[132] His decision angered any Anglicans in Lesotho.[133] Tutu took charge of the SACC in March 1978.[134] Returning to Johannesburg—where the SACC's headquarters were based at Khotso House[135]—the Tutus returned to their former Orlando West home, now bought for them by an anonymous foreign donor.[136] Leah gained employment as the assistant director of the Institute of Race Relations.[137]

Tutu was the SACC's first black leader,[138] and at the time, the SACC was one of the only Christian institutions in South Africa where black people had the majority representation.[139] There, he introduced a schedule of daily staff prayers, regular Bible study, monthly Eucharist, and silent retreats.[140] He also developed a new style of leadership, appointing senior staff who were capable of taking the initiative, delegating much of the SACC's detailed work to them, and keeping in touch with them through meetings and memorandums.[141] Many of his staff referred to him as "Baba" (father).[142] He was determined that the SACC become one of South Africa's most visible human rights advocacy organisations, a course which would anger the government.[138] His efforts gained him international recognition; in 1978 Kings College London elected him a fellow while the University of Kent and General Theological Seminary gave him honorary doctorates; the following year Harvard University also gave him an honorary doctorate.[143]

As head of the SACC, Tutu's time was dominated by fundraising efforts, particularly attempts to secure funds from overseas to pay for the organisation's various projects.[142] While Tutu was in charge of the SACC, it was revealed that one of its divisional director's had been stealing funds. In November 1981 an all-white government commission was launched to investigate the issue, headed by the judge C. F. Eloff.[144] Tutu gave evidence to the commission, during which he criticised apartheid as "evil" and "unchristian".[145] When the Eloff report was published, Tutu criticised it, focusing particularly on the absence of any theologians on its board, likening it to "a group of blind men" judging the Chelsea Flower Show.[146] Tutu also missed pastoral work, and in 1981 also became the rector of St Augustine's Church in Soweto's Orlando West.[147]

U.S. President Ronald Reagan meeting with Desmond Tutu in 1984. Tutu described Reagan's administration as "an unmitigated disaster for us blacks".[148]

During this period, he testified on behalf of a captured cell of the Umkhonto we Sizwe, an armed anti-apartheid group linked to the banned African National Congress (ANC). He stated that although he was committed to non-violence and censured those on all sides who used violence, he could understand why other black Africans would turn towards it when all their non-violent tactics had proved fruitless in overturning apartheid.[149] In an earlier address, he had expressed the view that an armed struggle against the South African government had little chance of succeeding but also called out Western nations for hypocrisy, noting that they were condemning armed liberation groups in southern Africa while they had praised armed liberation groups operating in Europe during the Second World War.[150]

After Tutu told Danish journalists that he supported an international economic boycott of South Africa, he was called before two government ministers to be reprimanded in October 1979.[151] In March 1980, the government confiscated his passport, an act which raised his international profile and brought condemnations from the US State Department and senior Anglicans like Robert Runcie.[152] Tutu also signed a petition calling for the released of Mandela, an imprisoned anti-apartheid activist; Mandela's freedom was not yet an international cause célèbre.[153] This led to a correspondence between the two men.[154] In 1980, the SACC committed itself to supporting civil disobedience against South Africa's racial laws.[155] After Thorne was arrested in May, Tutu and Joe Wing led a march of protest, during which they were arrested by riot police, imprisoned overnight, and fined.[156] The authorities confiscated Tutu's passport.[157] In the aftermath of the incident, a meeting was organised between 20 church leaders, including Tutu, and Botha and seven government ministers; taking place in August, at the meeting the clerical leaders unsuccessfully urged the government to dismantle the apartheid laws.[158] Some of the clergy saw this dialogue with the government as pointless, but Tutu disagreed, noting that "Moses went to Pharaoh repeatedly to secure the release of the Israelites".[159]

In January 1981, the government returned Tutu's passport to him.[160] In March, he embarked on a five-week visit to ten countries in Europe and North America, meeting politicians including the UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, and addressing the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid.[161] In the UK, he met Runcie gave a sermon in Westminster Abbey, while in Rome he spent a few minutes with Pope John Paul II.[162] On his return to South Africa, Botha again ordered his passport confiscated, preventing Tutu from personally collecting several further honorary degrees.[163] It was returned to him 17 months later.[164] In September 1982 he addressed the Triennial Convention of the Episcopal Church in New Orleans before traveling to Kentucky to see his daughter Naomi, who lived there with her American husband.[165] He was troubled that President Ronald Reagan adopted a warmer relationship with the South African government than his predecessor Jimmy Carter, relating that Reagan's government was "an unmitigated disaster for us blacks".[166] Tutu gained a popular following in the US, where he was often compared to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., although white conservatives like Patrick Buchanan and Jerry Falwell lambasted him as an alleged communist sympathiser.[167]

This award is for mothers, who sit at railway stations to try to eke out an existence, selling potatoes, selling mealies, selling produce. This award is for you, fathers, sitting in a single-sex hostel, separated from your children for 11 months a year... This award is for you, mothers in the KTC squatter camp, whose shelters are destroyed callously every day, and who sit on soaking mattresses in the winter rain, holding whimpering babies... This award is for you, the 3.5 million of our people who have been uprooted and dumped as if you were rubbish. This award is for you.
— Desmond Tutu's speech on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize[168]

By the 1980s, Tutu had become an icon for many black South Africans, his stature among them rivalled only by Mandela.[169] In August 1983, South Africans opposed to apartheid formed the United Democratic Front (UDF), with Tutu selected as one of the organisation's patrons.[170] Conversely, he angered the government as well as much of the press and white public.[171] Most of his critics were conservative whites who did not want apartheid to end.[171] He was criticised in pro-government press outlets like The Citizen and the South African Broadcasting Corporation,[172] with this criticism often centring on how his middle-class lifestyle contrasted with the poverty of the blacks he claimed to represent.[173] He received hate mail as well as death threats from white far-right white groups like the Wit Wolwe.[174] His rhetoric of angry defiance against the government alienated many white liberals, who believed that apartheid could be gradually reformed away; among the white liberals who publicly criticised Tutu were Alan Paton and Bill Burnett.[175] He nevertheless remained close with other prominent white liberals like Helen Suzman.[176]

In 1984, Tutu embarked on a three-month sabbatical leave at the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in New York.[177] In the city, he was invited to address the United Nations Security Council in October,[178] and in December he met the Congressional Black Caucus and the subcommittees on Africa in the House of Representatives and the Senate, urging them to put pressure on South Africa.[179] He was also invited to the White House to visit President Ronald Reagan; he urged Reagan to change his approach to the South African government although was unsuccessful.[180]

It was while in New York that Tutu was informed that he had won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize; he had previously been nominated in 1981, 1982, and 1983.[181] When the Nobel Prize selection committee met to decide 1984's award, they agreed that it should go to a South African to recognise the problems in that country, deciding that Tutu would be a less controversial choice than other South African nominees Mandela and Mangosuthu Buthelezi.[182] Tutu travelled to London, where he gave a public statement dedicating his award to "the little people" in South Africa.[183] In December, he attended the award ceremony in Oslo before returning home via Sweden, Denmark, Canada, Tanzania, and Zambia.[184] He shared the $192,000 prize money with his family, SACC staff, and a scholarship fund for South Africans in exile.[185] He was the second South African to receive the award, after Albert Luthuli in 1960.[148] The South African government and mainstream media either downplayed or criticised the award,[186] while the Organisation of African Unity hailed it as evidence of apartheid's impending demise.[187]

Bishop of Johannesburg: 1985–1986

I have no hope of real change from this government unless they are forced. We face a catastrophe in this land and only the action of the international community by applying pressure can save us. Our children are dying. Our land is bleeding and burning and so I call the international community to apply punitive sanctions against this government to help us establish a new South Africa — non-racial, democratic, participatory and just. This is a non-violent strategy to help us do so. There is a great deal of goodwill still in our country between the races. Let us not be so wanton in destroying it. We can live together as one people, one family, black and white together.
— Desmond Tutu, 1985[188]

After Bavin retired as Bishop of Johannesburg, Tutu was among five candidates considered as his replacement. An elective assembly met at St Barnabas' College in October and although Tutu was one of the two most popular candidates, the white laity voting bloc consistently voted against his candidature. After a deadlock ensued, a bishops' synod was called to make the final decision; they decided to give the role to Tutu.[189] Black Anglicans celebrated, although many of their white co-religionists were angry at the selection.[190] Tutu was enthroned as the sixth Bishop of Johannesburg at a ceremony in St Mary's Cathedral in February 1985.[191] He was the first black man to hold the role.[192] In his inaugural sermon, Tutu declared that he would call on the international community to introduce punitive economic sanctions against South Africa unless apartheid had not begun to be dismantled within 18 to 24 months.[193] He also sought to reassure white South Africans that he was not the "horrid ogre" some believed him to be, and as bishop he spent much time wooing the support of white Anglicans in his diocese.[193] As bishop, he resigned as patron of the UDF.[193]

In the mid-1980s, there were an increasing number of clashes between angry black youths and the security services, resulting in a growing death toll; Tutu was invited to speak at many of their funerals, which attracted crowds of thousands.[194] At a funeral in Duduza, he stepped in to prevent members of the crowd from killing a man suspected to be a government informant.[195] He spoke out against the torture and killing of suspected collaborators, angering some of those in the black community.[196] Amid the violence, the ANC called on black South Africans to make the country "ungovernable",[197] while foreign companies increasingly disinvested in the country and the rand reached a record low.[198] In July 1985, Botha implemented emergency measures; Tutu criticised this, and offered to serve as a go-between for the government and leading black organisations, but was rebuffed by the former.[199] In October 1985, Tutu addressed the political committee of the United Nations General Assembly urging that the international community impose sanctions on South Africa if apartheid was not dismantled within six months.[200]

Archbishop of Cape Town

Given that most senior anti-apartheid activists were imprisoned, Mandela referred to Tutu as "public enemy number one for the powers that be".[201]

On becoming Archbishop, he moved into the post's official residence at Bishopscourt.[202] He did so illegally, because he had not sought official permission to reside in what the state allocated as a "white area".[202]

In March 1988, he took up the cause of the Sharpeville Six who had been sentenced to death; opposed on principle to capital punishment, he called for their lives to be spared.[203] He telephoned representatives of the U.S., British, and German governments urging them to pressure Botha on the issue,[204] and personally met with Botha at the latter's Tuynhuys home to discuss the issue. The two did not get on well, and argued.[205] Botha accused Tutu of supporting the ANC's armed campaign; Tutu said that while he did not support their use of violence, he supported the ANC's objective of a non-racial, democratic South Africa.[206] The death sentences were ultimately commuted.[207]

In 1990, Tutu and the ex-Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape Professor Jakes Gerwel founded the Desmond Tutu Educational Trust. The Trust – established to fund developmental programmes in tertiary education – provides capacity building at 17 historically disadvantaged institutions. Tutu's work as a mediator to prevent all-out racial war 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!"[208]

In 1993, Tutu was a patron of the Cape Town Olympic Bid Committee. In 1994, he was appointed a 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.[209]

Role since apartheid

The 14th Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize laureates, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 2004

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 that is unusual in the Anglican church.[210] He was succeeded by Njongonkulu Ndungane. At a thanksgiving for Tutu upon his retirement from the See of Cape Town in 1996, Nelson Mandela said that Tutu made an "immeasurable contribution to our nation".[211]

Tutu is generally credited with coining the term Rainbow Nation as a metaphor for post-apartheid South Africa after 1994 under African National Congress rule. The expression has since entered mainstream consciousness to describe South Africa's ethnic diversity.[212]

Since his retirement, Tutu has worked as a global activist on issues pertaining to democracy, freedom and human rights. He is the patron of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, the successor organisation of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In this role he presents the annual South African Reconciliation Award. In 2006, Tutu launched a global campaign, organised by Plan, to ensure that all children are registered at birth, as an unregistered child did not officially exist and was vulnerable to traffickers and during disasters.[213] Tutu is the Patron of the educational improvement charity Link Community Development.[214] Tutu is also a member of the PeaceJam Foundation.[215]

Tutu had announced he would retire from public life when he turned 79 in October 2010. He stated: "Instead of growing old gracefully, at home with my family – reading and writing and praying and thinking – too much of my time has been spent at airports and in hotels".[216]

Role in South Africa

Tutu is widely regarded as "South Africa's moral conscience"[217] and was described by former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela as "sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid and seldom without humour, Desmond Tutu's voice will always be the voice of the voiceless".[218] Since his retirement, Tutu has worked to critique the new South African government. Tutu has been vocal in condemnation of corruption, the ineffectiveness of the ANC-led government to deal with poverty, and the recent outbreaks of xenophobic violence in some townships in South Africa.[219]

After a decade of freedom for South Africa, Tutu was honoured with the invitation to deliver the annual Nelson Mandela Foundation Lecture. On 23 November 2004, Tutu gave an address entitled "Look to the Rock from Which You Were Hewn". This lecture, critical of the ANC-led government, stirred a pot of controversy between Tutu and Thabo Mbeki, calling into question "the right to criticise".[220]

On 10 May 2013, Tutu said he would no longer be able to vote for the ANC, citing inequality, violence, and corruption. "The ANC was very good at leading us in the struggle to be free from oppression," Tutu wrote, "But it doesn't seem to me now that a freedom-fighting unit can easily make the transition to becoming a political party." He sharply criticised the decision of the South African government to delay the issuance of a visa to the Dalai Lama, accusing the government of "kowtowing to China".[221]

Tutu stated that Nelson Mandela would be dismayed that Afrikaners got excluded from memorial services to commemorate Mandela's death.[222] The spokesman for Tutu said the cleric changed his plans and would attend the funeral of Mandela, after not originally being officially invited.[223]

Continued economic stratification and political corruption

Tutu made a stinging attack on South Africa's political elite, saying the country was "sitting on a powder keg"[224] because of its failure to alleviate poverty a decade after apartheid's end. Tutu also said that attempts to boost black economic ownership were benefiting only an elite minority, while political "kowtowing" within the ruling ANC was hampering democracy. Tutu asked, "What is black empowerment when it seems to benefit not the vast majority but an elite that tends to be recycled?"[224]

Tutu criticised politicians for debating whether to give the poor an income grant of $16 (£12) a month and said the idea should be seriously considered. Tutu has often spoken in support of the Basic Income Grant (BIG) which has so far been defeated in parliament. After the first round of volleys were fired, South African Press Association journalist, Ben Maclennan reported Tutu's response as: "Thank you Mr President for telling me what you think of me, that I am—a liar with scant regard for the truth, and a charlatan posing with his concern for the poor, the hungry, the oppressed and the voiceless."[225]

Tutu warned of corruption shortly after the re-election of the African National Congress government of South Africa, saying that they "stopped the gravy train just long enough to get on themselves."[226] In August 2006 Tutu publicly urged Jacob Zuma, the South African politician (now President) who had been accused of sexual crimes and corruption, to drop out of the ANC's presidential succession race. He said in a public lecture that he would not be able to hold his "head high" if Zuma became leader after being accused both of rape and corruption. In September 2006, Tutu repeated his opposition to Zuma's candidacy as ANC leader due to Zuma's "moral failings."[227] In November 2013 he warned that politicians and activists were stoking anger which resulted in a spate of sometimes violent protests, that he identified as an assault on South Africa's democracy.[228]

Complications accompanying initiation rituals

Initiation rituals amongst the Xhosa people have led to the death of over 825 boys since 1995, many others suffered complications including penile amputation. Following the death of 43 boys during December 2013, Tutu urged traditional leadership and government to intervene, and "to draw on the skills of qualified medical practitioners to enhance our traditional circumcision practices." He furthermore emphasized the cultural importance of the ritual as educational institution, preparing initiates "to contribute to building a better society for all."[229]

Criticism of Tutu

The head of the Congress of South African Students condemned Tutu as a "loose cannon" and a "scandalous man" – a reaction which prompted an angry Mbeki to side with Tutu. Zuma's personal advisor responded by accusing Tutu of having double standards and "selective amnesia" (as well as being old). Elias Khumalo claims that Tutu "had found it so easy to accept the apology from the apartheid government that committed unspeakable atrocities against millions of South Africans", yet now "cannot find it in his heart to accept the apology from this humble man who has erred".[230]

Chair of the Elders

On 18 July 2007, in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel, and Tutu convened The Elders, a group of world leaders to contribute their wisdom, kindness, leadership and integrity to tackle some of the world's toughest problems. Mandela announced its formation in a speech on his 89th birthday.

"This group can speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes on whatever actions need to be taken," Mandela commented. "Together we will work to support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict, and inspire hope where there is despair."[231]

Tutu served as Chair of The Elders from the founding of the group in July 2007 to May 2013. Upon stepping down and becoming an Honorary Elder, he said: "As Elders we should always oppose presidents for Life. After six wonderful years as Chair, I am sad to say that it was time for me to step down."[232] Kofi Annan currently serves as Chair and Gro Harlem Brundtland as Deputy Chair. The other members of the group are Martti Ahtisaari, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter, Hina Jilani, Graça Machel, Mary Robinson and Ernesto Zedillo.

Several other leaders were previously affiliated with The Elders. Former Elder Muhammad Yunus stepped down as a member of the group in September 2009, stating that he was unable to do justice to his membership due to the demands of his work.[233] Aung San Suu Kyi is a former honorary Elder. During her period under house arrest, the Elders kept an empty chair at each of their meetings to mark their solidarity with Suu Kyi and Burma's other political prisoners. In line with the requirement that members of The Elders should not hold public office, Suu Kyi stepped down as an honorary Elder following her election to parliament on 1 April 2012.[234] Li Zhaoxing was present at the launch of The Elders but did not formally join the group.

The Elders work globally, on thematic as well as geographically specific subjects. The Elders' priority issue areas include the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the Korean Peninsula, Sudan and South Sudan, sustainable development, and equality for girls and women.[235]

Tutu led The Elders' visit to Sudan in October 2007 – their first mission after the group was founded – to foster peace in the Darfur crisis. "Our hope is that we can keep Darfur in the spotlight and spur on governments to help keep peace in the region," said Tutu.[236] He has also travelled with Elders delegations to Ivory Coast, Cyprus, Ethiopia, India, South Sudan and the Middle East.[237] Tutu has been particularly involved in The Elders' initiative on child marriage, attending the Clinton Global Initiative in New York in September 2011 to launch Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage.[238]

The Elders are independently funded by a group of donors: Sir Richard Branson and Jean Oelwang (Virgin Unite), Peter Gabriel (The Peter Gabriel Foundation), Kathy Bushkin Calvin (The United Nations Foundation), Jeremy Coller and Lulit Solomon (J Coller Foundation), Niclas Kjellström-Matseke (Swedish Postcode Lottery), Randy Newcomb and Pam Omidyar (Humanity United), Jeff Skoll and Sally Osberg (Skoll Foundation), Jovanka Porsche (HP Capital Partners), Julie Quadrio Curzio (Quadrio Curzio Family Trust), Amy Towers (The Nduna Foundation), Shannon Sedgwick Davis (The Bridgeway Foundation) and Marieke van Schaik (Dutch Postcode Lottery). Mabel van Oranje, former CEO of The Elders, sits on the Advisory Council in her capacity as Advisory Committee Chair of Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage.[239]

Role in the developing world

Desmond Tutu gets an HIV test on The Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation's Tutu Tester, a mobile test unit

Tutu has focused on drawing awareness to issues such as poverty, AIDS and non-democratic governments in the Third World. In particular he has focused on issues in Zimbabwe and Palestine.[240]


Tutu has been vocal in his criticism of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe as well as the South African government's policy of quiet diplomacy towards Zimbabwe. In 2007 he said the "quiet diplomacy" pursued by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) had "not worked at all" and he called on Britain and the West to pressure SADC, including South Africa, which was chairing talks between President Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, to set firm deadlines for action, with consequences if they were not met.[241] Tutu has often criticised Robert Mugabe in the past and he once described the leader as "a cartoon figure of an archetypical African dictator".[217] In 2008, he called for the international community to intervene in Zimbabwe – by force if necessary.[242] Mugabe, on the other hand, has called Tutu an "angry, evil and embittered little bishop".[243]

Tutu has often stated that all leaders in Africa should condemn Zimbabwe: "What an awful blot on our copy book. Do we really care about human rights, do we care that people of flesh and blood, fellow Africans, are being treated like rubbish, almost worse than they were ever treated by rabid racists?"[217] After the Zimbabwean presidential elections in April 2008, Tutu expressed his hope that Mugabe would step down after it was initially reported that Mugabe had lost the elections. Tutu reiterated his support of the democratic process and hoped that Mugabe would adhere to the voice of the people.[244]

Tutu called Mugabe "someone we were very proud of", as he "did a fantastic job, and it's such a great shame, because he had a wonderful legacy. If he had stepped down ten or so years ago he would be held in very, very high regard. And I still want to say we must honour him for the things that he did do, and just say what a shame."[244]

Tutu stated that he feared that riots would break out in Zimbabwe if the election results were ignored. He proposed that a peace-keeping force should be sent to the region to ensure stability.[244]

Solomon Islands

In 2009, Tutu assisted in the establishing of the Solomon Islands' Truth and Reconciliation Commission, modelled after the South African body of the same name.[245][246] He spoke at its official launch in Honiara on 29 April 2009, emphasising the need for forgiveness to build lasting peace.[247]

Israel and Palestine

Tutu has acknowledged the significant role Jews played in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and has voiced support for Israel's security concerns, speaking against suicide bombing.[248] He is an adversary of the doctrine of Supersessionism, the biblical interpretation that the Christian Church supersedes or replaces Israel in God's plan, and that the New Covenant nullifies the biblical promises made to Israel.[249] He is also an active and prominent proponent of the campaign for divestment from Israel,[250] likening Israel's treatment of Palestinians to the treatment of Black South Africans under apartheid.[248] Tutu drew this comparison on a Christmas visit to Jerusalem in 1989, when he said that he is a "black South African, and if I were to change the names, a description of what is happening in Gaza and the West Bank could describe events in South Africa."[251] He made similar comments in 2002, speaking of "the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about".[252]

In 1988, the American Jewish Committee noted that Tutu was strongly critical of Israel's military and other connections with apartheid-era South Africa, and quoted him as saying that Zionism has "very many parallels with racism", on the grounds that it "excludes people on ethnic or other grounds over which they have no control". While the AJC was critical of some of Tutu's views, it dismissed "insidious rumours" that he had made antisemitic statements.[253] (The exact wording of Tutu's statement was reported differently in different sources. A Toronto Star article from the period indicates that he described Zionism "as a policy that looks like it has many parallels with racism, the effect is the same.")[254]

Tutu preached a message of forgiveness during a 1989 trip to Israel's Yad Vashem museum, saying "Our Lord would say that in the end the positive thing that can come is the spirit of forgiving, not forgetting, but the spirit of saying: God, this happened to us. We pray for those who made it happen, help us to forgive them and help us so that we in our turn will not make others suffer."[255] Some found this statement offensive, with Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center calling it "a gratuitous insult to Jews and victims of Nazism everywhere."[256] Tutu was subjected to racial slurs during this visit to Israel, with vandals writing "Black Nazi pig" on the walls of the St. George's Cathedral in East Jerusalem, where he was staying.[255]

In 2002, when delivering a public lecture in support of divestment, Tutu said "My heart aches. I say why are our memories so short. Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?"[248] He argued that Israel could never live in security by oppressing another people, and stated, "People are scared in this country [the US], to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful – very powerful. Well, so what? For goodness sake, this is God's world! We live in a moral universe. The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists."[248] The latter statement was criticised by some Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League.[257][258] When he edited and reprinted parts of his speech in 2005, Tutu replaced the words "Jewish lobby" with "pro-Israel lobby".[259]

American attorney Alan Dershowitz referred to Tutu as a "racist and a bigot" during the controversial Durban II conference in April 2009.[260] Dershowitz[261] cites Tutu's statement "whether Jews like it or not, they are a peculiar people. They can't ever hope to be judged by the same standards which are used for other people" as evidence of holding Jews to a double standard and as evidence of anti-Semitism. The ADL has accused Tutu of veering into religious anti-Semitism.[262] Sudanese human rights activist Simon Deng, writing for the Gatestone Institute, has criticized Tutu for referring to Israel as an apartheid state, stating that Arabs in Israel enjoy a variety of rights that blacks in apartheid-era South Africa did not, including the right to vote, and that Palestinians are only stopped at checkpoints to prevent attacks. Deng asks why Tutu criticizes Israel for apartheid policies it does not have, but ignores what Deng believes to be actual apartheid practices in other countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and especially his own country Sudan.[263]

Global March to Jerusalem

Tutu in 2013

As of March 2012, Tutu was a member of the Advisory Board for Global March to Jerusalem (GM2J).[264] According to Paul Larudee, founding member of GM2J, the aim was to "march from many starting points and converge on Jerusalem, either reaching that destination or getting as close to it as possible" on 30 March 2012 as an act of nonviolent resistance to what he describes as Israel's Judaization of Jerusalem.[265]

Palestinian Christians

In 2003, Tutu accepted the role as patron of Sabeel International,[266] a Christian liberation theology organisation which supports the concerns of the Palestinian Christian community and has actively lobbied the international Christian community for divestment from Israel.[267] In the same year, Tutu received an International Advocate for Peace Award from the Cardozo School of Law, an affiliate of Yeshiva University, sparking scattered student protests and condemnations from representatives of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Anti-Defamation League.[268] A 2006 opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post newspaper described him as "a friend, albeit a misguided one, of Israel and the Jewish people".[269] The Zionist Organization of America has led a campaign to protest Tutu's appearances at North American campuses.


Tutu was appointed as the U.N. Lead for an investigation into the Israeli bombings in the Beit Hanoun November 2006 incident.[270] Israel refused Tutu's delegation access, so the investigation didn't occur until 2008.

During that fact-finding mission, Tutu called the Gaza blockade an abomination[271] and compared Israel's behaviour to the military junta in Burma.

During the 2008–2009 Gaza War, Tutu called the Israeli offensive "war crimes".

Protests against Tutu in the United States

In 2011, 27 members of the American Psychiatric Association boycotted the group's annual meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii to protest against the selection of Tutu as speaker, as they objected to Tutu's statement that Zionism has "very many parallels with racism", his description of Israel as an apartheid state, his call for academic and cultural boycotts of Israel, a position which conflicts with APA's policy, and what the members regarded as his "strongly anti-Semitic comments" and "falsehoods about Israel". APA president Carol Bernstein invited Tutu to speak about South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the Menninger lecture.[272][273][274]

In 2007, the president of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota cancelled a planned speech by Tutu, on the grounds that his presence might offend some members of the local Jewish community.[275] Many faculty members opposed this decision, and with some describing Tutu as the victim of a smear campaign. The group Jewish Voice for Peace led an email campaign calling on St. Thomas to reconsider its decision,[276] which the president did and invited Tutu to campus.[277] Tutu declined the re-invitation, speaking instead at the Minneapolis Convention Center at an event hosted by Metro State University.[278]


Tutu wrote to the Chinese government demanding the release of dissident Yang Jianli in 2007.[279] He criticised China for not doing more against the Darfur genocide.[280] During the 2008 Tibetan unrest, Tutu praised the 14th Dalai Lama and said that the government of China should "listen to [his] pleas for... no further violence".[281] He later spoke to a rally calling on heads of states worldwide not to attend the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony "for the sake of the beautiful people of Tibet".[282] The Dalai Lama was refused a visa to enter South Africa to participate in Tutu's 80th birthday party on 7 October 2011.[283][284]

United Nations role

In 2003, Tutu was elected to the board of directors of the International Criminal Court's Trust Fund for Victims.[285] He was named a member of the UN advisory panel on genocide prevention in 2006.[286]

However, Tutu has also criticised the UN, particularly on the issue of West Papua. Tutu expressed support for the West Papuan independence movement, criticising the UN's role in the takeover of West Papua by Indonesia. Tutu said: "For many years the people of South Africa suffered under the yoke of oppression and apartheid. Many people continue to suffer brutal oppression, where their fundamental dignity as human beings is denied. One such people is the people of West Papua."[287]

Tutu was named to head a United Nations fact-finding mission to the Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun, where, in a November 2006 incident the Israel Defense Forces killed 19 civilians after troops wound up a week-long incursion aimed at curbing Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel from the town.[288] Tutu planned to travel to the Palestinian territory to "assess the situation of victims, address the needs of survivors and make recommendations on ways and means to protect Palestinian civilians against further Israeli assaults," according to the president of the UN Human Rights Council, Luis Alfonso De Alba.[289] Israeli officials expressed concern that the report would be biased against Israel. Tutu cancelled the trip in mid-December, saying that Israel had refused to grant him the necessary travel clearance after more than a week of discussions.[290] However, Tutu and British academic Christine Chinkin are now[when?] due to visit the Gaza Strip via Egypt and will file a report at the September 2008 session of the Human Rights Council.[291]

Against poverty

Before the 31st G8 summit at Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005, Tutu called on world leaders to promote free trade with poorer countries. Tutu also called on an end to expensive taxes on anti-AIDS drugs.[292]

Before the 32nd G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, in 2007, Tutu called on the G8 to focus on poverty in the Third World. Following the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000, it appeared that world leaders were determined as never before to set and meet specific goals regarding extreme poverty.[293]

Against unilateralism

In January 2003, Tutu attacked British Prime Minister Tony Blair's stance in supporting American President George W. Bush over Iraq. Tutu asked why Iraq was being singled out when Europe, India and Pakistan also had many weapons of mass destruction.[294] In 2012, Tutu pulled out of an event in South Africa at which Blair was also due to appear, citing what he described as the former UK prime minister's "morally indefensible" decision to attack Iraq,[295] and called for him to face trial for alleged war crimes at the Hague.[296] Blair defended himself at the conference,[297] while Juan Cole observed that "Blair was paid thousands of dollars to attend the conference; if Tutu had gone, he would have spoken gratis."[298]

In October 2004, Tutu appeared in a play at Off Broadway, New York, called Guantanamo – Honor-bound to Defend Freedom. This play was highly critical of the US handling of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Tutu played Lord Justice Steyn, a judge who questions the legal justification of the detention regime.[299]

In January 2005, Tutu added his voice to the growing dissent over terrorist suspects held at Camp X-Ray in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, referring to detentions without trial as "utterly unacceptable." Tutu compared these detentions to those under Apartheid. Tutu also emphasised that when South Africa had used those methods the country had been condemned; however when powerful countries such as Britain and the United States of America had invoked such power, the world was silent and in that silence accepted their methods even though the left charged that they violated essential human rights.[300]

In February 2006, Tutu repeated these statements after a UN report was published which called for the closure of the camp. Tutu stated that the Guantanamo camp was a stain on the character of the United States, while the legislation in Britain which gave a 28-day detention period for terror suspects was "excessive" and "untenable". Tutu claimed that arguments being made in Britain and the United States were similar to those the South African apartheid regime had used. "It is disgraceful and one cannot find strong enough words to condemn what Britain and the United States and some of their allies have accepted," said Tutu. Tutu also spoke against Tony Blair's failed attempt to hold terrorist suspects in Britain for up to 90 days without charge. "Ninety days for a South African is an awful déjà-vu because we had in South Africa in the bad old days a 90-day detention law," he said. Under apartheid, as at Guantanamo, people were held for "unconscionably long periods" and then released, he said.[301]

In 2007, Tutu stated that the global "war on terror" could not be won if people were living in desperate conditions. Tutu said that the global disparity between rich and poor people creates instability.[302]


Tutu's supporters consider him a tireless campaigner for health and human rights, and he has been particularly vocal in support of controlling TB and HIV.[303] He is Patron of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, a non-profit organisation registered under Section 21 of the South African Companies Act, has served as the honorary chairman for the Global AIDS Alliance and is patron of TB Alert, a UK charity working internationally.[304] In 2003 the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre was founded in Cape Town, while the Desmond Tutu TB Centre was founded in 2003 at Stellenbosch University. Tutu suffered from TB in his youth and has been active in assisting those afflicted, especially as TB and HIV/AIDS deaths have become intrinsically linked in South Africa. "Those of you who work to care for people suffering from AIDS and TB are wiping a tear from God's eye," Tutu said.[303]

On 20 April 2005, after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected as Pope Benedict XVI, Tutu said he was sad that the Roman Catholic Church was unlikely to change its opposition to condoms amidst the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa: "We would have hoped for someone more open to the more recent developments in the world, the whole question of the ministry of women and a more reasonable position with regards to condoms and HIV/AIDS."[305]

In 2007, statistics were released that indicated HIV and AIDS numbers were lower than previously thought in South Africa. However, Tutu described these statistics as "cold comfort" as it was unacceptable that 600 people died of AIDS in South Africa every day. Tutu also rebuked the government, particularly Mbeki and Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, for wasting time by discussing the cause of HIV/AIDS and for their denialist stance.[306]

Homosexuality issues

In the debate about Anglican views of homosexuality, Tutu has opposed Christian disapproval of homosexuality. Commenting days after the election on 5 August 2003 of Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, to be a bishop in the Episcopal Church in the United States, Tutu said, "In our Church here in South Africa, that doesn't make a difference. We just say that at the moment, we believe that they should remain celibate and we don't see what the fuss is about."[307] Tutu has remarked that it is sad the church is spending time disagreeing on sexual orientation "when we face so many devastating problems – poverty, HIV/AIDS, war and conflict".[308]

Tutu has increased his criticism of conservative attitudes to homosexuality within his own church, equating homophobia with racism, saying at a conference in Nairobi that he is "deeply disturbed that in the face of some of the most horrendous problems facing Africa, we concentrate on 'what do I do in bed with whom'".[309] In an interview with BBC Radio 4 on 18 November 2007, Tutu accused the church of being obsessed with homosexuality and declared: "If God, as they say, is homophobic, I wouldn't worship that God."[310] Tutu has said that in future anti-gay laws would be regarded as just as wrong as apartheid laws.[311] Tutu has also supported the inclusion of same-sex marriages within the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.[312]

Tutu has lent his name to the fight against homophobia in Africa and around the world. He stated at the launching of the book Sex, Love and Homophobia that homophobia is a "crime against humanity" and "every bit as unjust" as apartheid. He added that "we struggled against apartheid in South Africa, supported by people the world over, because black people were being blamed and made to suffer for something we could do nothing about; our very skins... It is the same with sexual orientation. It is a given."[313]

Tutu has been more supportive in recent years of non-celibate gay Christian clergy, praising Gene Robinson and even writing the foreword for his autobiography, In the Eye of the Storm (2008).[314] He said of Robinson: "For someone in the eye of the storm buffeting our beloved Anglican Communion, Gene Robinson is so serene; he is not a wild-eyed belligerent campaigner. I was so surprised at his generosity toward those who have denigrated him and worse. Gene Robinson is a wonderful human being, and I am proud to belong to the same church as he."[315] He also wrote to the Revd Grayde Parsons praising the Presbyterian Church's decision to allow non-celibate male and female clergy.[316]

Tutu supported the creation of the Harvey Milk Foundation after being a co-recipient of 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom with Milk and meeting his nephew, Stuart Milk, who accepted the medal on behalf of his uncle. Tutu remains involved as a founding member of the foundation's advisory board.[317]

In July 2013, Tutu said that he would rather go to hell than a homophobic heaven:[318]

In December 2015, Tutu's daughter, Mpho Tutu married a woman, Marceline van Furth.[319] Tutu was able to give a blessing for the marriage of his daughter and her partner.[320]

Family planning

In 1994, Tutu said that he approved of artificial contraception and that abortion was acceptable in a number of situations, such as incest and rape. He specifically welcomed the aims of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo.[321] He accepted the full legalisation of abortion in South Africa, in 1996, despite some personal reservations[322]

Assisted dying

Tutu came out in support of assisted dying on July 2014, stating that life shouldn't be preserved "at any cost". He also said that laws that deny the right to assisted dying deprive those who are dying of their "human right to dignity". He gave the example of Nelson Mandela, whose long and painful illness was in his opinion "an affront to Madiba's dignity". Tutu stated that in a similar situation he would not want to have his own life "prolonged artificially", saying "I think a lot of people would be upset if I said I wanted assisted dying. I would say I wouldn't mind actually."[323][324][325]

Climate change

Tutu at the COP17 We Have Faith: Act Now for Climate Justice Rally, 27 November 2011 in Durban, South Africa

Tutu was at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. He made a speech in front of many at the event. Tutu is also a "Climate Ally" in the "tck tck tck Time for Climate Justice" campaign of the Global Humanitarian Forum and a messenger.[326] He also helped to lead a rally in 2011 in Durban, South Africa (We Have Faith:Act Now for Climate Justice Rally) in the run up to the COP17 negotiations; where he advocated for all governments to sign a binding document to ensure that climate justice is realised for all people. He has voiced support for fossil fuel divestment and compared it to divestment from South Africa in protest of apartheid.

We must stop climate change. And we can, if we use the tactics that worked in South Africa against the worst carbon emitters... Throughout my life I have believed that the only just response to injustice is what Mahatma Gandhi termed "passive resistance". During the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, using boycotts, divestment and sanctions, and supported by our friends overseas, we were not only able to apply economic pressure on the unjust state, but also serious moral pressure.[327]

Iraq War

Tutu has been a staunch opponent since the start of the Iraq War, saying that it has "destabilised and polarised the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history". In September 2012, Tutu called for George W. Bush and Tony Blair to be tried by the International Criminal Court for their roles in the conflict, saying they should be made to "answer for their actions".[328]

Imprisonment of Chelsea Manning

Together with Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Tutu published a letter in support of Chelsea Manning, saying (in November 2012, nine months prior to Manning coming out as a trans woman in August 2013)

The words attributed to Manning reveal that he went through a profound moral struggle between the time he enlisted and when he became a whistleblower. Through his experience in Iraq, he became disturbed by top-level policy that undervalued human life and caused the suffering of innocent civilians and soldiers. Like other whistleblowers, he was driven foremost by a desire to reveal the truth


The military prosecution has not presented evidence that Private Manning injured anyone by releasing secret documents... Nor has the prosecution denied that his motivations were conscientious[329]

Other humanitarian initiatives

In 2009 Tutu joined the project "Soldiers of Peace", a movie against all wars and for a global peace.[330][331]

Also in 2009, along with prominent chefs and celebrities like Daniel Boulud and Jean Rochefort, Desmond Tutu endorsed Action Against Hunger's No Hunger Campaign calling on the former Vice-President Al Gore to make a documentary film about world hunger.[332]

In 2013, Tutu was a mentor for Unreasonable at Sea, a technology business accelerator for social entrepreneurs seeking to scale their ventures in international markets, founded by Unreasonable Group, Semester at Sea, and Stanford's Hasso Plattner Institute of Design.[333]

In August 2017, ten Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including Tutu, urged Saudi Arabia to stop the executions of 14 young people for participating in the 2011–12 Saudi Arabian protests.[334]

In September 2017, Tutu asked fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to halt anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar.[335]

Academic role

Tutu delivering the keynote address at the University of the Western Cape's Golden Key International Honour Society New Member Recognition Event, 2009

In 1998, he was appointed as the Robert R Woodruff Visiting Professor at Emory University, Atlanta. He returned to Emory University the following year as the William R. Cannon Visiting Distinguished Professor. In 2000, he founded the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation to raise funds for the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre in Cape Town. The following year he launched the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation USA, which is designed to work with universities nationwide to create leadership academies emphasising peace, social justice and reconciliation.

In 2001, the Desmond Tutu Educational Trust, with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, launched the Desmond Tutu Footprints of the Legends Awards to recognise leadership in combating prejudice, human rights, research and poverty eradication. In 2003, he taught a course entitled Truth and Reconciliation at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida, after being asked by adjunct professor Oupa Seane, a friend and activist from South Africa. Since 2004, he has been a visiting professor at King's College London. In 2007, 2010 and 2013, he joined 600 college students and sailed around the world with the Semester at Sea program.[336] Tutu addressed Gonzaga University's Class of 2012 on 13 May 2012 in Spokane, Washington.[337]

Tutu co-chairs 1GOAL Education for All campaign which was launched by Queen Rania of Jordan in August 2009 which aims to secure schooling for some 72 million children worldwide who cannot afford it, in accordance with the Millennium Goal Promise of Education For All by 2015 giving them an opportunity to get education through the FIFA 1Goal campaign.[338][339]


In the ongoing effort to research the diversity of the human genome, Tutu donated some of his own cells to the project. They were sequenced as an example for a Bantu individual representing Sotho-Tswana and Nguni speakers (publication: February 2010).[340]

Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa

Tutu currently serves as the honorary chair of the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa's (AWEPA) Eminent Advisory Board.[341]


Tutu at The Faculty of Protestant Theology in Vienna

On 16 October 1984, the then Bishop Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee cited his "role as a unifying leader figure in the campaign to resolve the problem of apartheid in South Africa".[342] This was seen as a gesture of support for him and The South African Council of Churches which he led at that time. In 1987 Tutu was awarded the Pacem in Terris Award.[343] It was named after a 1963 encyclical letter by Pope John XXIII that calls upon all people of good will to secure peace among all nations.[344] In 1992, he was awarded the Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award. His 2010 book, Made for Goodness was awarded a Nautilus Book Award.

In June 1999, Tutu was invited to give the annual Wilberforce Lecture in Kingston upon Hull, commemorating the life and achievements of the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce. Tutu used the occasion to praise the people of the city for their traditional support of freedom and for standing with the people of South Africa in their fight against apartheid. He was also presented with the freedom of the city.[345]

Freedom of the City awards have been conferred on Tutu in cities in Italy, Wales, England and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has received numerous doctorates and fellowships at distinguished universities. He has been named a Grand Officer of the Légion d'honneur by France; Germany has awarded him the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, and he received the Sydney Peace Prize in 1999. He is also the recipient of the Gandhi Peace Prize, the King Hussein Prize and the Marion Doenhoff Prize for International Reconciliation and Understanding. In 2008, Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois proclaimed 13 May 'Desmond Tutu Day'. On his visit to Illinois, Tutu was awarded the Lincoln Leadership Prize and unveiled his portrait which will be displayed at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield.[346]

In 2013 he received the £1.1m ($1.6m) Templeton Prize for "his life-long work in advancing spiritual principles such as love and forgiveness".[347]

The Forgiveness Project

Tutu is one of the patrons of The Forgiveness Project,[348] a UK-based charity that uses real stories of victims and perpetrators of crime to facilitate conflict resolution, break the cycle of vengeance and encourage behavioural change. As a supporter of their work,[349] Tutu joined Anita Roddick at the launch of The Forgiveness Project's exhibition, the F Word, at the Oxo Tower Gallery in January 2004 and on 12 May 2010 delivered the charity's inaugural annual lecture.[350]

Speaking to 800 people at St John's Smith Square in London on lecture's topic of "Is violence ever justified?" he talked about the process of truth and reconciliation, the transformative nature of forgiveness and the uniquely African concept of Ubuntu – 'I am me, because you are you', saying that when wars come to an end, only forgiveness enables people to fully move away from conflict.[351]

Arch for Arch

In 2017 an arch was commissioned to be built in honour of Tutu. The concept with a life-size reproduction was unveiled at Design Indaba Festival in March 2017. A Design Indaba project, it was designed and created by Snøhetta co-founder Craig Dykers and Johannesburg architect Thomas Chapman. The structure consists of 14 individual arched beams of wood, together forming a dome, representative of the 14 lines of the preamble to South Africa's constitution. The first arch has been built in Cape Town between the Company's Garden and St. George's Cathedral. A second arch is being built at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg.[352]

Personal life and personality

Tutu was a committed Christian since boyhood.[353] He had a lifelong love of literature and reading,[354] and a passion for preserving African traditions of courtesy.[91] He could be offended by discourteous behaviour and careless language,[355] and insisted on punctuality among those in his employ.[137] Gish described him as being both warm and exuberant,[69] and outgoing and sensitive.[355] Allen described him as a "loving but strict father" to his children.[137] He was known to dislike gossip, discouraging it among his staff.[356] He was offended by bad language and had a hatred of ethnic slurs.[142] He was rarely angry in his personal contacts with others, although could become so if he felt that his integrity was being challenged.[141] He had a tendency to be highly trusting, something which some of those close to whom sometimes believed was unwise in various situations.[142] Quick witted, he used humour to try and win over audiences.[357]

He was a fan of cricket,[131] and his favourite foods included samosas, marshmallows, fat cakes, and Yogi Sip.[131] Gish noted that "Tutu's voice and manner could light up an audience; he never sounded puritanical or humourless".[358]

On 2 July 1955, Tutu married Nomalizo Leah Shenxane, a teacher whom he had met while at college. They had four children: Trevor Thamsanqa, Theresa Thandeka, Naomi Nontombi and Mpho Andrea, all of whom attended the Waterford Kamhlaba School in Swaziland.[359]

In 1975 he moved into what is now known as Tutu House on Soweto's well known Vilakazi Street, which is also the location of a house in which the late Nelson Mandela once lived.[360] It is said to be one of the few streets in the world where two Nobel Prize winners have lived.[361]

In 1991, Tutu's son Trevor was convicted of contravening the Civil Aviation Act for falsely claiming there was a bomb on board a South African Airways plane at East London Airport. He was granted bail pending appeal but failed to appear and was finally apprehended in Johannesburg in August 1997. He applied for and, in 1997, was granted amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of which Desmond was co-founder and chairman, attracting harsh criticism on suspicion of preferential treatment.[362][363][364][365]

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.[366]

Beginning on his 79th birthday, Tutu entered a phased retirement from public life, starting with only one day per week in his office, until February 2011. On 23 May 2011 in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, he gave what was said to be his last major public speech outside South Africa. He honoured his commitments through May 2011 and added no more commitments.[367]

However, he subsequently came out of retirement to give a commencement speech at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, on 13 May 2012, and gave an address at Butler University's Desmond Tutu Center in Indianapolis, Indiana, on 12 September of that year.[368]

Tutu says that every day he gets up at 4 am[369] and has a quiet time, a morning walk, morning prayers and the Eucharist.[370] He reads the Bible every day.[371] Tutu says he reads the Bible every day and recommends that people read it as a collection of books, not a single constitutional document: "You have to understand is that the Bible is really a library of books and it has different categories of material," he said. "There are certain parts which you have to say no to. The Bible accepted slavery. St Paul said women should not speak in church at all and there are people who have used that to say women should not be ordained. There are many things that you shouldn't accept."[371]


Racial equality was one of his core principles,[372] and he believed that the apartheid system had to be wholly dismantled rather than being reformed in a piecemeal fashion.[358] He promoted racial reconciliation between South Africa's different communities, believing that most blacks fundamentally wanted to live in harmony with whites.[157] He was always committed to non-violent activism,[372] and in his speeches was also cautious never to threaten or endorse violence, even when he warned that it was a likely outcome of government policy.[373] He nevertheless described himself as a "man of peace" rather than a pacifist.[374] He for instance accepted that violence had been necessary to stop Nazism.[373] In the South African situation, he criticised the use of violence by both the government and anti-apartheid groups, although was also critical of white South Africans who would only condemn the use of violence by the latter, regarding such a position as a case of double-standards.[373] To end apartheid, he advocated foreign economic pressure be put on South Africa.[373] To critics who claimed that this measure would only cause further hardship for impoverished black South Africans, he responded that said communities were already experiencing significant hardship and that it was better that any future problems at least had a purpose.[375]

In his speeches, he stressed that apartheid itself, rather than white people, was the enemy.[376] He tried to cultivate goodwill from the country's white community, making a pint of showing white individuals gratitude when they made concessions to black demands.[157] He also spoke to many white audiences, urging them to support his cause, referring to it as the "winning side".[377] When he held public prayers, he always included mention of those who upheld the apartheid system, such as politicians and police, as well as the system's victims, emphasising his view that all humans were the children of God.[378] He stated that "the people who are perpetrators of injury in our land are not sporting horns or tails. They're just ordinary people who are scared. Wouldn't you be scared if you were outnumbered five to one?"[379] Tutu compared the apartheid ethos of South Africa's National Party to the ideas of the Nazi Party, and drew comparisons between apartheid policy and the Holocaust. He noted that whereas the latter was a quicker and more efficient way of exterminating whole populations, the National Party's policy of forcibly relocating black South Africans to areas where they lacked access to food and sanitation had much the same result.[380] In his words, "Apartheid is as evil and as vicious as Nazism and Communism".[381]

He believed that it was the duty of Christians to oppose unjust laws.[131] He felt that religious leaders like himself should stay outside of party politics, citing the example of Abel Muzorewa in Zimbabwe, Makarios III in Cyprus, and Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran as examples in which such crossovers proved problematic.[382] He tried to avoid alignment with any particular political party; in the 1980s he for instance signed a plea urging anti-apartheid activists in the United States to support both the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress.[383]

Tutu has described himself as a socialist, in 1986 relating that "All my experiences with capitalism, I'm afraid, have indicated that it encourages some of the worst features in people. Eat or be eaten. It is underlined by the survival of the fittest. I can't buy that. I mean, maybe it's the awful face of capitalism, but I haven't seen the other face."[384] Tutu has often used the aphorism that "African communism" is an oxymoron because—in his view—Africans are intrinsically spiritual and this conflicts with the atheistic nature of Marxism.[385] He was critical of the Marxist governments in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, comparing the way that they treated their populations with the way that the National Party treated South Africans.[380]

He and his wife boycotted a lecture given at the Federal Theological Institute by former British Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home in the 1960s; Tutu noted that they did so because Britain's Conservative Party had "behaved abominably over issues which touched our hearts most nearly".[79]


Tutu's approach to Anglicanism has been characterised as Anglo-Catholic in nature.[386]

In the 1970s, Tutu became an advocate of both black theology and African theology, seeking ways to fuse the two schools of Christian theological thought.[387] He rejected the idea that any particular variant of theology was universally applicable, instead maintaining that it had to be "contextual" in relating to the socio-cultural conditions in which it existed.[102]

Tutu expressed the view that Western theology sought answers to questions that Africans were not asking.[388] For Tutu, two major questions were being posed by African Christianity: how to replace imported Christian expressions of faith with something authentically African, and how to liberate people from bondage.[389] He believed that there were many comparisons to be made between contemporary African understandings of God and those featured in the Old Testament.[104]

Reception and legacy

Tutu with his daughter Mpho Andrea in the Netherlands, 2012

According to Allen, Tutu "made a powerful and unique contribution to publicizing the antiapartheid struggle abroad", particularly in the United States.[390]

During Tutu's rise to notability during the 1970s and 1980s, responses to him were "sharply polarized".[391] He gained much adulation from black journalists, inspired imprisoned anti-apartheid activists, and led to many black parents naming their children after him.[391] By 1984 he was—according to Gish—"the personification of the South African freedom struggle".[357] Conversely, the response he received from South Africa's white minority was more mixed. Most of those who criticised him were conservative whites who did not want a shift away from apartheid and white-minority rule.[171] Many of these whites were angered that he was calling for economic sanctions against South Africa and that he was warning that racial violence was impending.[392] This hostility was exacerbated by the government's campaign to discredit Tutu and distort his image.[393] Allen noted that in 1984, Tutu was "the black leader white South Africans most loved to hate" and that this antipathy extended beyond supporters of the far-right government to liberals too.[172]

Tutu also drew criticism from within the anti-apartheid movement and the black South African community. Some black anti-apartheid activists regarded him as too moderate, and in particular too focused on cultivating white goodwill.[394] According to Gish, Tutu "faced the perpetual dilemma of all moderates - he was often viewed suspiciously by the two hostile sides he sought to bring together".[394] Tutu's critical view of Marxist-oriented communism and the governments of the Eastern Bloc, and the comparisons he drew between these administrations and far-right ideologies like Nazism and apartheid brought criticism from the South African Communist Party in 1984.[395]

Naomi Tutu founded the Tutu Foundation for Development and Relief in Southern Africa, based in Hartford, Connecticut. She attended the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky and has followed in her father's footsteps as a human rights activist. She is currently[when?] a graduate student at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, in Nashville, Tennessee.[396] Desmond Tutu's other daughter, Mpho Tutu, has also followed in her father's footsteps and in 2004 was ordained an Episcopal priest by her father.[397] 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.[398]

Tutu at the World Economic Forum 2009


Tutu is the author of seven collections of sermons and other writings:

See also



  1. ^ Gish 2004, p. 2; Allen 2006, pp. 9–10.
  2. ^ Allen 2006, p. 10.
  3. ^ Allen 2006, pp. 10–11.
  4. ^ Allen 2006, p. 11.
  5. ^ Allen 2006, p. 14.
  6. ^ Allen 2006, pp. 14–15.
  7. ^ Allen 2006, p. 16.
  8. ^ Gish 2004, p. 3; Allen 2006, p. 16.
  9. ^ Gish 2004, p. 3.
  10. ^ a b c Allen 2006, p. 21.
  11. ^ Gish 2004, p. 3; Allen 2006, p. 19.
  12. ^ a b c Allen 2006, p. 19.
  13. ^ Gish 2004, p. 2; Allen 2006, p. 19.
  14. ^ a b Allen 2006, p. 20.
  15. ^ Gish 2004, p. 3; Allen 2006, p. 22.
  16. ^ a b Gish 2004, p. 4; Allen 2006, p. 33.
  17. ^ Allen 2006, p. 33.
  18. ^ a b Gish 2004, p. 4; Allen 2006, p. 21.
  19. ^ Gish 2004, p. 5; Allen 2006, p. 24.
  20. ^ Allen 2006, p. 24.
  21. ^ a b Allen 2006, p. 25.
  22. ^ Allen 2006, p. 34.
  23. ^ Allen 2006, pp. 25, 34–35.
  24. ^ Allen 2006, p. 36.
  25. ^ Gish 2004, p. 7; Allen 2006, p. 37.
  26. ^ Allen 2006, pp. 36, 37–38.
  27. ^ Gish 2004, p. 8; Allen 2006, p. 42.
  28. ^ Gish 2004, p. 10; Allen 2006, pp. 43–45.
  29. ^ Gish 2004, p. 9; Allen 2006, pp. 45–46.
  30. ^ Allen 2006, p. 47.
  31. ^ a b Allen 2006, pp. 47–48.
  32. ^ Gish 2004, p. 12; Allen 2006, p. 48.
  33. ^ Allen 2006, p. 48.
  34. ^ Gish 2004, p. 17; Allen 2006, pp. 48–49.
  35. ^ Gish 2004, p. 18; Allen 2006, p. 50.
  36. ^ Gish 2004, p. 18; Allen 2006, pp. 49–50.
  37. ^ Gish 2004, pp. 17, 18; Allen 2006, pp. 50–51.
  38. ^ Gish 2004, p. 18; Allen 2006, p. 51.
  39. ^ Allen 2006, pp. 51–52.
  40. ^ a b Allen 2006, p. 52.
  41. ^ Gish 2004, p. 22; Allen 2006, p. 53.
  42. ^ a b Allen 2006, p. 53.
  43. ^ Gish 2004, pp. 20–21; Allen 2006, pp. 60–61.
  44. ^ Gish 2004, p. 23; Allen 2006, p. 61.
  45. ^ Allen 2006, pp. 61–62.
  46. ^ Gish 2004, p. 25; Allen 2006, pp. 63–64.
  47. ^ Gish 2004, p. 26; Allen 2006, p. 64.
  48. ^ Allen 2006, p. 68.
  49. ^ Allen 2006, pp. 64–65.
  50. ^ Allen 2006, p. 67.
  51. ^ Gish 2004, p. 35; Allen 2006, p. 72.
  52. ^ Gish 2004, p. 26; Allen 2006, pp. 68–69.
  53. ^ Allen 2006, p. 70.
  54. ^ a b Gish 2004, p. 28; Allen 2006, p. 74.
  55. ^ Allen 2006, p. 75.
  56. ^ Gish 2004, p. 28; Allen 2006, p. 76.
  57. ^ Gish 2004, p. 31; Allen 2006, p. 77.
  58. ^ Allen 2006, p. 81.
  59. ^ Gish 2004, p. 31; Allen 2006, pp. 79–81.
  60. ^ Allen 2006, p. 86.
  61. ^ Gish 2004, p. 32; Allen 2006, p. 87.
  62. ^ Allen 2006, p. 87.
  63. ^ Gish 2004, pp. 31, 33; Allen 2006, pp. 84, 87.
  64. ^ Gish 2004, p. 34; Allen 2006, p. 88.
  65. ^ Allen 2006, pp. 89–90.
  66. ^ Allen 2006, p. 92.
  67. ^ Gish 2004, p. 35; Allen 2006, pp. 92, 95.
  68. ^ Gish 2004, p. 35; Allen 2006, p. 93.
  69. ^ a b Gish 2004, p. 35.
  70. ^ Gish 2004, p. 34.
  71. ^ Allen 2006, pp. 98–99.
  72. ^ Gish 2004, p. 39; Allen 2006, pp. 98–99.
  73. ^ Gish 2004, p. 39.
  74. ^ a b Allen 2006, p. 101.
  75. ^ Gish 2004, p. 42; Allen 2006, p. 95.
  76. ^ Gish 2004, p. 41; Allen 2006, pp. 101, 103.
  77. ^ Allen 2006, p. 104.
  78. ^ Allen 2006, pp. 104, 105.
  79. ^ a b c Allen 2006, p. 105.
  80. ^ Gish 2004, p. 42; Allen 2006, p. 101.
  81. ^ a b c d Allen 2006, p. 116.
  82. ^ Gish 2004, p. 42; Allen 2006, p. 108.
  83. ^ Allen 2006, p. 108.
  84. ^ Allen 2006, p. 109.
  85. ^ Gish 2004, pp. 43–44; Allen 2006, pp. 109–110.
  86. ^ Gish 2004, p. 44; Allen 2006, p. 110.
  87. ^ Gish 2004, p. 44; Allen 2006, p. 111.
  88. ^ Gish 2004, p. 45; Allen 2006, p. 112.
  89. ^ a b Gish 2004, p. 45; Allen 2006, p. 113.
  90. ^ Allen 2006, pp. 114–115.
  91. ^ a b Allen 2006, p. 115.
  92. ^ Allen 2006, pp. 138–39.
  93. ^ Gish 2004, pp. 49, 51; Allen 2006, pp. 119–120.
  94. ^ Gish 2004, pp. 51–53; Allen 2006, pp. 123, 143–144.
  95. ^ Gish 2004, p. 53; Allen 2006, p. 123.
  96. ^ Gish 2004, p. 53; Allen 2006, p. 124.
  97. ^ Allen 2006, pp. 125–127.
  98. ^ Allen 2006, p. 128.
  99. ^ Allen 2006, pp. 129–130.
  100. ^ Gish 2004, p. 52.
  101. ^ a b Gish 2004, p. 54.
  102. ^ a b Allen 2006, p. 135.
  103. ^ Gish 2004, p. 46.
  104. ^ a b c Allen 2006, p. 137.
  105. ^ Allen 2006, p. 138.
  106. ^ Allen 2006, p. 139.
  107. ^ Gish 2004, pp. 55, 58; Allen 2006, pp. 139, 144–145.
  108. ^ Allen 2002, p. 144.
  109. ^ Allen 2006, pp. 145–146.
  110. ^ Gish 2004, p. 58; Allen 2006, p. 146.
  111. ^ Gish 2004, pp. 59–60; Allen 2006, p. 147.
  112. ^ Gish 2004, p. 60; Allen 2006, p. 149.
  113. ^ a b Gish 2004, p. 60.
  114. ^ Gish 2004, p. 61.
  115. ^ Allen 2006, p. 155.
  116. ^ Allen 2006, p. 150.
  117. ^ Allen 2006, pp. 150–151.
  118. ^ Gish 2004, pp. 61–62; Allen 2006, p. 154.
  119. ^ Gish 2004, pp. 62–64; Allen 2006, pp. 154, 156–158.
  120. ^ Gish 2004, p. 64; Allen 2006, p. 158.
  121. ^ Gish 2004, p. 65; Allen 2006, p. 149.
  122. ^ Gish 2004, p. 65; Allen 2006, p. 151.
  123. ^ Gish 2004, p. 65.
  124. ^ a b Gish 2004, p. 65; Allen 2006, p. 159.
  125. ^ Allen 2006, pp. 160–161.
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Allen, John (2006). Rabble-Rouser for Peace: The Authorised Biography of Desmond Tutu. London: Rider. ISBN 978-1-84-604064-1. 
Gish, Steven D. (2004). Desmond Tutu: A Biography. Westport, Connecticut and London: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-32860-9. 

Further reading

External links

  • The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation SA
  • Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation USA
  • Tutu Foundation UK
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
Anglican Church of Southern Africa titles
Preceded by
John Maund
Bishop of Lesotho
Succeeded by
Philip Stanley Mokuku
Preceded by
Timothy Bavin
Bishop of Johanneburg
Succeeded by
George Buchanan
Preceded by
Philip Russell
Archbishop of Cape Town
Succeeded by
Njongonkulu Ndungane
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