ARCHBISHOP Emeritus Desmond Tutu, more familiar in his purple vestments, has proudly donned a pair of cycling tights, vest and helmet to show support for his foundation’s fight against the spread of tuberculosis.
Yesterday, a high-spirited Tutu met a group of about 15 cyclists from the Desmond Tutu TB Centre and other sectors related to TB research, who are set to tackle the gruelling Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour this weekend.
Although Tutu, who joked about his unique physique, will not be in the saddle for Sunday’s 110km race around the Peninsula, he has thrown his weight behind the riders’ cause.
The group comprises doctors, medical staff, professors and researchers involved in the treatment and study of TB, and many of whom are from the Desmond Tutu TB Centre in Stellenbosch.
One of the riders is James Seddon, a paediatric doctor based at the centre’s Tygerberg office, who explained that while most of them were not athletes, they were riding to raise awareness.
He said that their ride was coming just ahead of World Tuberculosis Day, held annually on March 24. This year’s theme was “Stop TB in My Lifetime”, and would have a large focus on children, he added.
“And effectively we felt it was important to do this because of the children.”
He said that the Cycle Tour would create a good platform for advocacy against the spread of TB.
Tutu, who signed some of the doctors’ vests with the message “God Bless”,
commended them as “incredibly committed human beings”.
The “Arch” said that he’d last cycled while on holiday in the north of Sweden about five years ago.
He said that because he’d had TB as a young boy, he’d originally hoped to become a physician.
“When I had TB, I was even more determined to find a cure for this horrible ailment.”
He said that children should not be exposed to conditions that would make them liable to TB, and he warned that if children were not cured before completing their treatment, there would be a very great risk of having drug-resistant TB in communities.
“One of the most worrying things is that in almost every part of Africa, the incidence of TB is reducing except in South Africa, where it’s increasing.”
Tutu called TB a disease of poverty. “Because you have to have a good diet to combat it. Poverty really clobbers us many times over… Poverty is very expensive.”