By Uganda Online Media Correspondent
Cape Town: Desmond Tutu, the cleric and social activist who was a giant of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, has died aged 90.
Tutu, described by foreign observers and his countrymen as the moral conscience of his nation, died in Cape Town on Boxing Day.
This has been confirmed by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday in a statement.
“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 in a statement.
He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his efforts to end apartheid and was the last surviving South African Nobel laureate.
He played a key role in South Africa’s transition from the apartheid era, including serving as chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission at the direction of then-President Nelson Mandela.In the statement, Ramaphosa expressed his condolences to Tutu’s family and friends, calling him “a patriot without equal.
Known affectionately as The Arch, Tutu was instantly recognizable, with his purple clerical robes, cheery demeanor and almost constant smile.
He was not afraid to show his emotions in public, including memorably laughing and dancing at the opening ceremony of the football World Cup in South Africa in 2010.
Despite his popularity though he was not a man who was loved by all. He was very critical of the African National Congress (ANC) government in the post-apartheid era, when, at times, he felt it was misrepresenting South Africa – even warning in 2011 that he would pray for its downfall over a canceled visit by the Dalai Lama.
In response, the national police commissioner Gen Bheki Cele told Tutu to “go home and shut up”.
Ordained as a priest in 1960, Tutu went on to serve as bishop of Lesotho from 1976-78, assistant bishop of Johannesburg and rector of a parish in Soweto. He became Bishop of Johannesburg in 1985, and was appointed the first black Archbishop of Cape Town the following year. He used his high-profile role to speak out against the oppression of black people in his home country, always saying his motives were religious and not political.
After Mandela became South Africa’s first black president in 1994, Tutu was appointed by him to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up to investigate crimes committed by both whites and blacks during the apartheid era.
He was also credited with coining the term Rainbow Nation to describe the ethnic mix of post-apartheid South Africa, but in his latter years he expressed regret that the nation had not coalesced in the way in which he had dreamt.