Cape Town – Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu passed away in Cape Town, aged 90, on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said.
“The passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is another chapter of bereavement in our nation’s farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans, who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.
“Desmond Tutu was a patriot without equal; a leader of principle and pragmatism, who gave meaning to the biblical insight that faith without works is dead.”
Ramaphosa expressed his profound sadness on behalf of all South Africans.
Tutu was the last surviving South African laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize.
“A man of extraordinary intellect, integrity and invincibility against the forces of apartheid, he was also tender and vulnerable in his compassion for those who had suffered oppression, injustice and violence under apartheid, and oppressed and downtrodden people around the world,” Ramaphosa said.
“As chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission he articulated the universal outrage at the ravages of apartheid, and touchingly and profoundly demonstrated the depth of meaning of ubuntu, reconciliation and forgiveness.”
Ramaphosa expressed his heartfelt condolences to Tutu’s wife, Mam Leah Tutu, and the Tutu family.
He also sent his condolences to the board and staff of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, the Elders and Nobel Laureate Group, and the friends, comrades and associates nationally and globally of the iconic spiritual leader, anti-apartheid activist and global human rights campaigner.
“He placed his extensive academic achievements at the service of our Struggle and at the service of the cause for social and economic justice the world over,” Ramaphosa said.
“From the pavements of resistance in South Africa to the pulpits of the world’s great cathedrals and places of worship, and the prestigious setting of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Arch distinguished himself as a non-sectarian, inclusive champion of universal human rights,” he said.
“In his richly inspiring yet challenging life, Desmond Tutu overcame tuberculosis, the brutality of the apartheid security forces and the intransigence of successive apartheid regimes. Neither Casspirs, teargas nor security agents could intimidate him or deter him from his steadfast belief in our liberation.”
Tutu, fondly known as the “Arch” and for his infectious giggle and humanity, was born of Xhosa and Tswana parents and was educated in mission schools at which his father taught.
Although he initially wanted a medical career, Tutu was unable to afford the training costs and instead became a schoolteacher in 1955. He resigned in 1957 to become a priest.
“He remained true to his convictions during our democratic dispensation and maintained his vigour and vigilance as he held leadership and the burgeoning institutions of our democracy to account in his inimitable, inescapable and always fortifying way,” Ramaphosa said.
“We share this moment of deep loss with Mam Leah Tutu, the Archbishop’s soulmate and source of strength and insight, who has made a monumental contribution in her own right to our freedom and to the development of our democracy,” he said.
“We pray that Archbishop Tutu’s soul will rest in peace, but that his spirit will stand sentry over the future of our nation.”
Born Desmond Mpilo Tutu on October 7, 1931 in Klerksdorp, the Anglican cleric received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1984 for his non-violent role in opposing apartheid in South Africa. On Thursday, the international community joins South Africa in celebrating his milestone 90th birthday.