Desmond Tutu, icon of the anti-apartheid struggle, dies at 90


South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, icon of the fight against apartheid and Nobel Peace Prize winner, died Sunday at the age of 90, announced President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The president expresses « on behalf of all South Africans, his deep sadness following the death, this Sunday » of this essential figure in South African history, in a statement. « The death of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is a new chapter of mourning in our nation’s farewell to a generation of exceptional South Africans who left us a liberated South Africa, » added the president.

He hadn’t spoken in public for months

“A man of extraordinary intelligence, upright and invincible against the forces of apartheid, he was also tender and vulnerable in his compassion for those who had suffered oppression, injustice and violence under the apartheid, and for the oppressed and for the oppressors around the world, ”added Cyril Ramaphosa.

The Arch, as it was nicknamed by South Africans, had been weakened for several months. He no longer spoke in public, but always greeted the cameras present at each of his travels, smiling or mischievous glance, during his vaccine against the Covid in a hospital or during the office in Cape Town to celebrate his 90 years in October.

« We South Africans will become the rainbow people of the world »

Desmond Tutu gained notoriety during the worst hours of the racist apartheid regime. While a priest, he organized peaceful marches against segregation and pleaded for international sanctions against the white regime in Pretoria. Only her dress will save her from prison. His nonviolent fight was crowned with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

With the advent of democracy ten years later, the man who gave South Africa the nickname « Rainbow Nation » chairs the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which, he hopes, must allow the country to turn the page on racial hatred. “I walk on clouds. It’s an incredible feeling, like falling in love, ”he says. « We South Africans are going to become the rainbow people of the world. » His hopes were quickly dashed. The black majority has acquired the right to vote, but remains largely poor.

The dream of a multiracial and egalitarian South Africa

Faithful to his commitments, the « priest » of Cape Town then becomes the slayer of the excesses of the ANC government, starting with the mistakes of former President Thabo Mbeki in the fight against AIDS. In 2013, he even promised never to vote for the party that triumphed over apartheid again. « I did not fight to drive out people who thought they were junk gods and replace them with others who think they are too, » says Tutu.

A tireless campaigner for racial unity, in 2011 he was not afraid to propose a tax on the wealth of whites alone to correct inequalities. « They took advantage of apartheid, » he pleads. Abroad, we can also see it in all theaters of conflict, DR Congo, Sudan, Kenya or Palestine. He calls for judging Western leaders for the Iraq war.

On the death of Nelson Mandela in 2013, Desmond Tutu had woken up a very boring official ceremony by making the crowd shout a powerful « yes » after having launched « we promise to God that we will follow the example of Nelson Mandela! « 

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