Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu, the reluctant global president of the non-violent movement, has fallen. The South African anti-apartheid icon died on December 26, 2021, at the age of 90 and the world has been mourning the demise of the international human rights defender ever since. Archbishop Tutu becomes one of the last of an extraordinary generation of moral giants, of men and women, who, in the 1980s and 1990s, steered a turbulent, traumatised country away from cruelties of racial apartheid and the cliff-edge of civil war. He was a lot of things and not just the following:

• A freedom fighter liberator extraordinaire.

• A warrior that could not be seen with ordinary eyes.

• A political prisoner outside prison confinement.

• A proponent of the truth and reconciliation movement.

• A man of faith but with respect for traditional values and cultures.

• An African that crossed boundaries and brought down walls and barriers with social justice.

• A perfect gentleman that touched all genders.

• A man admired by young and old, rich and poor, educated and the uneducated.

Desmond Tutu is a name that will forever be remembered when the stories of the battle against the sinister force of apartheid in South Africa, which was dismantled with the emergence of black majority rule led by Madiba Nelson Mandela in 1994, is told. Tutu initially wanted to be a medical doctor but his parents’ abject poverty threw a spanner in the works of that noble dream to save lives. He then turned his attention to the teaching profession and qualified as a teacher in 1951. He spent four years there and encountered his first brush with apartheid when, in 1953, the white minority National Party introduced the Bantu Education Act, which further entrenched apartheid in the teaching profession in the later to be known Rainbow Nation.

Disillusioned with this, the then young Tutu and his newly married wife, Leah, decided to quit the profession. Following that decision, he went on to become a clergyman as he saw the priesthood as a way of greatly influencing minds for good, especially in the face of mounting tension in the country as a result of the evil apartheid regime that was getting more brutal by the day. He was ordained an Anglican priest in 1960 and, in a twist of fate, returned to the teaching profession after a move to East Jerusalem in 1966, where he studied Arabic and Greek, before his return to the country. He was able to combine both professions effortlessly.

He used the pulpit to air his views against apartheid and threw his weight behind the international calls for an economic boycott of South Africa as a way to dismantle the oppressive regime.

He was a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1981, 1982 and 1983, before he finally won it in 1984. Some analysts posited that the selection committee was looking for a less controversial figure than Mandela to give the prize to. By the 1980s, his stature as a liberation figure was second only to Mandela.

After apartheid was dismantled and Mandela became the first black South African President, Tutu was made the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, between 1996 and 1998, to heal the wounds and unite the country. He ensured that there were no reprisal attacks on the Caucasians who the blacks still bore lots of hatred for.

With Tutu gone, South Africa, and indeed the world, finds itself not quite rudderless or leaderless, but without the beautiful ones who were ready to give everything for everyone. The contrast between those times of sacrifice and glory and today’s far-from-reputable political realities can certainly appear disheartening. We are forced to stop and ask if the beautiful ones are really no more.

The ‘good Africans’ are leaving the continent, leaving only the bad and ugly now facing a bleak future with unimaginable consequences all over. Consequences like:

• Ethnic wars and religious crisis.

• Economic disasters with mountain debts.

• Climate crisis and political corruption.

What clergyman will be as bold as Tutu was and tell the truth, irrespective of the cost to his/her person? How many people will selflessly seek justice without counting the cost to self? Once again, we need the likes of Mandela and Tutu to rise up in this generation and challenge the status quo. But I fear such people may no longer exist.

I met Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Washington in 2001 during the graduation ceremony of my son in Howard University. He was the graduation speaker and special guest of honour. My son was then the outgoing Mr. Howard of the university. He told us a joke, which resonated with the university’s authorities, the graduating students, the parents and the audience that came from all over the world. He told us that when the invaders entered South Africa a few thousand years ago, it was not too easy for them to occupy because of the resistance that was put on by the fighting spirits of some South African tribesmen. So, the white invaders went back and returned with thousands of the Holy Book called the Bible. They started teaching Christianity and a different type of god from the one worshiped in South Africa. They also taught them how to say prayers with the Bible in their hands and eyes closed so that when they opened their eyes after the prayers all they had were the Bibles as all their lands were gone.

All through the time, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, even at a very old age and failing health, continued to teach us how to fight against social injustice and racial injustice. He told our political leaders how not to rob the people of their rights and rush to the church to ask for forgiveness.

In South Africa, over the years, he was the bridge when the black-on-black crisis orchestrated by the white supremists started. He was never in pursuit of wealth but was never in want of anything.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu will forever be remembered in our hearts and in our stories of justice, truth and reconciliation.

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Source: news