Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a renowned anti-apartheid activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate has died aged 90.
The vibrant and globally recognised South African Archbishop passed away peacefully on Sunday, December 26, per a statement from Dr Ramphela Mamphele, acting chairperson of the Archbishop Desmond Tutu IP Trust and Coordinator of the Office of the Archbishop.
“Ultimately, at the age of 90, he died peacefully at the Oasis Frail Care Centre in Cape Town this morning,” she stated.
Immediately, tributes from near and far poured in for the inspiring man, led by South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa.
“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.
Former US president Barack Obama also shared some poignant words.
“A universal spirit, Archbishop Tutu was grounded in the struggle for liberation and justice in his own country, but also concerned with injustice everywhere,” Obama shared.
“He never lost his impish sense of humour and willingness to find humanity in his adversaries.”
Queen Elizabeth II shared a statement on behalf of the royal family, all of whom connected with the Archbishop for various Commonwealth engagements.
“I am joined by the whole Royal Family in being deeply saddened by the news of the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a man who tirelessly championed human rights in South Africa and across the world,” Her Majesty wrote.
“I remember with fondness my meetings with him and his great warmth and humour.
“Archbishop Tutu’s loss will be felt by the people of South Africa, and by so many people in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and across the Commonwealth, where he was held in such high affection and esteem.”
More recently, the Queen’s grandson Prince Harry and wife Meghan Markle spent time with Desmond during a tour of South Africa at the end of 2019.
Many royal fans will no doubt remember the moment Desmond met their then-newborn son Archie, to whom he gave a kiss on the forehead.
Today, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle shared their own emotional statement in the wake of his death by reflecting on that special moment.
“Archbishop Tutu will be remembered for his optimism, his moral clarity, and his joyful spirit. He was an icon for racial justice and beloved across the world. It was only two years ago that he held our son, Archie, while we were in South Africa—’Arch and The Arch’ he had joked, his infectious laughter ringing through the room, relaxing anyone in his presence. He remained a friend and will be sorely missed by all,” the couple wrote.
Desmond Tutu worked tirelessly throughout his life to bring to life his dream of a “rainbow nation”.
He was outspoken and well respected across the entire country for his efforts to bring peace and reconciliation for all races.
He was a key voice among activists who worked tirelessly to bring an end to apartheid in the late 20th century, and his name is recognised alongside the likes of Nelson Mandela (who later became President of South Africa) and Stephen Biko, who was at the forefront the Black Consciousness Movement during the late 1960s and 1970s.
Desmond became bishop of Johannesburg in 1985 and later became the archbishop of Cape Town in 1986—a position he held for 10 years. He was the first black African to hold these positions.
Even after apartheid ended, Desmond never gave up on fighting for fairness and equality in South Africa, and he was known for holding both black and white politicians to account.
While his cause of death is unknown, Desmond had suffered health issues since he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the late 1990s. It’s understood he was hospitalised several times to treat infections associated with it.
With his passing comes great reflection on a man who proved how possible it is to change the course of history by taking positive action—he himself put that truth into his own words.
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
Vale, Archbishop Desmond.