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Desmond Tutu – Anti-Apartheid Activist


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Desmond Tutu – Anti-Apartheid Activist. On 2 July 1955, Tutu married Nomalizo Leah Shenxane, a teacher he met while at college. They had four children: Trevor, Theresa, Naomi and Mpho, all of whom attended Waterford Kamhlaba School in Swaziland.

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

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

In 1997, Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent successful treatment in the US. He subsequently became patron of the South African Prostate Cancer Foundation which was established in 2007. In 1976, the protests in Soweto, also known as the Soweto Riots, against the government's use of Afrikaans as a compulsory medium of instruction in black schools became a massive uprising against apartheid. From then on Tutu supported an economic boycott of his country. He vigorously opposed the "constructive engagement" policy of the Reagan administration in the United States, which advocated "friendly persuasion". Tutu rather supported disinvestment, although it hit the poor hardest, for if disinvestment threw blacks out of work, Tutu argued, at least they would be suffering "with a purpose". In 1985, the US and the UK (two primary investors into South Africa) stopped any investments. As a result, disinvestment did succeed, causing the value of the Rand to plunge more than 35 percent, and pressuring the government toward reform. Tutu pressed the advantage and organized peaceful marches which brought 30,000 people onto the streets of Cape Town.

Tutu was Bishop of Lesotho from 1976 until 1978, when he became Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches. From this position, he was able to continue his work against apartheid with agreement from nearly all churches. Tutu consistently advocated reconciliation between all parties involved in apartheid through his writings and lectures at home and abroad. Tutu's opposition to apartheid was vigorous and unequivocal, and he was outspoken both in South Africa and abroad. He often compared apartheid to Nazism and Communism, as a result the government twice revoked his passport, and he was jailed briefly in 1980 after a protest march. It was thought by many that Tutu's increasing international reputation and his rigorous advocacy of non-violence protected him from harsher penalties. Tutu was also harsh in his criticism of the violent tactics of some anti-apartheid groups such as the African National Congress and denounced terrorism and Communism. When a new constitution was proposed for South Africa in 1983 to defend against the anti-apartheid movement, Tutu helped form the National Forum Committee to fight the constitutional changes. Despite his opposition to apartheid Tutu was criticized for "selective indignation" by his passive attitude towards the coup regime in Lesotho (1970–86), where he had taught from 1970–2 and served as Bishop 1976–1978, leaving as civil war broke out. This contrasted poorly with the courageous stance of Lesotho Evangelical Church personnel who were murdered. In 1990, Tutu and the ex-Vice Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape Professor Jakes Gerwel founded the Desmond Tutu Educational Trust. The Trust was established to fund developmental programmes in tertiary education and provides capacity building at 17 historically disadvantaged institutions. Tutu's work as a mediator in order 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!" and finished his speech saying:

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

In 1993, he was a patron of the Cape Town Olympic Bid Committee. In 1994, he was an 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 and he became a patron of the American Harmony Child Foundation and the Hospice Association of Southern Africa.

After the fall of apartheid, Tutu headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He retired as Archbishop of Cape Town in 1996 and was made emeritus Archbishop of Cape Town, an honorary title that is unusual in the Anglican Church. He was succeeded by Njongonkulu Ndungane. At a thanksgiving for Tutu upon his retirement as Archbishop in 1996, Nelson Mandela said:



“His joy in our diversity and his spirit of forgiveness are as much part of his immeasurable contribution to our nation as his passion for justice and his solidarity with the poor”.


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