The Death of the Father of the Rainbow Nation


Prof Hoosen Vawda – TRANSCEND Media Service

“I wish I could shut up, but I can’t and I won’t.” — Desmond Tutu  [1]

 A Celebration of the Glorious Life of the Global Icon, Reverend Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu

The Face of Divine Serenity: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu

Today, 31st December 2021, South Africa and the indeed, entire world respect and celebrate the glorious and selfless life of a simple cleric, the international icon of peace, the very Reverend Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu.  The “Arch” as he was loving called, passed away at the Oasis Frail Care Centre in Cape Town on Sunday, 26th December 2021, early in the morning, a public holiday, designated as Boxing Day, South Africa and elsewhere.  The day concludes the long and worthy life of the 90-year-old anti-apartheid veteran, who in pursuit of alleviating human suffering and advocating peace was awarded the Nobel peace prize, in 1984 for his human rights work, the worthiest and eminently deserving laureate in the entire history of the prestigious the award, inaugurated, by Alfred Nobel who ironically invented dynamite. What a contrast; the opposing philosophies of Peace and War. As a celebration of the life of the “Arch”, a week of memorial services were held, throughout South Africa, to pay tribute to Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu, with an “intimate evening” for Archbishop Tutu’s friends and his wife, the esteemed Mrs. Leah Tutu was held on Thursday, 30th December 2021.   The Arch was the first Black bishop of the Anglican Church Johannesburg and during his lifetime, Archbishop Tutu was an outspoken critic of South Africa’s apartheid, Nationalist Party’s government and prior to 1994, the brutal system of oppression against the South Africa’s Black majority. “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven,” he said eight years ago,[2] but The Arch is there, already.

A lie in state was declared for two days, 30th and 31st December 2021 at Archbishop’s favourite St, Georges Cathedral in Cape Town, with the funeral scheduled for Saturday 01st January 2022. The simplicity of the globally renowned cleric was evident in his death as in life.  The Arch’s body was brought to the cathedral in the cheapest coffin, available and he elected to be cremated.

The simple coffin of the Arch brought to St George’s Cathedral on 30th December 2021

The Arch was spiritually and physically the greatest humanoid to come “Out of Africa”, as the “Cradle of Humankind”, yet there is a cynical sentiment amongst White supremacist, colonisers, oppressors and slavers that “Nothing Good Comes out of Africa”[3]. This negativism about Africa has even indoctrinated Black journalists to concur.  Joseph Rwagatare’s article, “Of blinkers, glory and out of dark Africa narrative”, published in The New Times on September 10, 2021[4]

Mr Rwagatare is a commentator, and as such he has a licence to express his opinion while Jeffrey Gettleman[5] is a reporter and an American Pulitzer prize-winning journalist. who purports to write facts. And as the late US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts.”[6]  Mr Gettleman attempts to pass off his clearly ignorant opinions on Rwandan issues for incontrovertible facts. But even more importantly, Rwandans have paid a very heavy price for these kinds of narratives that Mr Rwagatare correctly says have been fed by Western prejudices and inaccuracies that have become permanent points of reference, even by Africans.[7]  Refusing to believe that the kind of sophisticated social organisation they found in pre-colonial Rwanda could have been the work of mere negroes (whose intelligence they considered barely above that of mere apes), early European missionaries and anthropologists came up with the theory that the Tutsi must be the descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel who must have arrived in the Great Lakes of Central Africa via Abyssinia (Ethiopia).[8] Indoctrination in schools and through other means ended up convincing even Rwandans who should have known better that that was indeed our history.[9] We know the consequences of this narrative. We shouldn’t allow the likes of Gettleman – for whom this kind of cartoonish meme of Rwanda and its leadership is a constan,  to frame who we are, why we do things the way we do, and where we want to go. Mr Rwagatare has framed the problem of the likes of Gettleman extremely well. Let’s wrest our history and our story from those of his ilk,[10] according to Mwene Kalinda from Kigali[11]

The Arch was a body of supreme goodness to come “Out of Africa”  He demonstrated, not only verbally, a timeline of a life well lived in service of the people, he uplifted, but also practically. He dedicated his life to speaking truth to power for more than three decades.  Initially, Archbishop Tutu openly criticised to the dark forces of apartheid,  then, after 1994,  to the power of the very seat of the liberation struggle, when he noticed the moral decay settling in the organization. He was fearless in standing up to fight for the cause of the discriminated and oppressed, people of colour, worldwide from Africa, through Palestine, to Myanmar. addressing his fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate, in 1991, Madam Aung San Suu Kyi[12], the Burmese politician, diplomat and author, who served as State Counsellor of Myanmar, in her silence and non-action in the Rohingya Genocide by committed by the Burmese military junta.

It was a warm day on  07th October, 1931m  when Desmond Tutu was born in Klerksdorp, a small farming town about 170km to the west of Johannesburg, in the then province of Transvaal, in South Africa.[13] The sickly son of a headteacher and a domestic servant, he trained first as a teacher before becoming an Anglican priest. As a cleric, he travelled widely, gaining an MA in theology from King’s College London. Though he only emerged as a key figure in the liberation struggle in the mid-1970s, he was to have a huge impact, becoming a household name across the globe.[14]   However, in 1943 Tutu’s Methodist family joins the Anglican Church. On 1947m Tutu falls ill with tuberculosis while studying at a secondary school near Sophiatown, Johannesburg. He befriends a priest and serves in his church after recovering from illness.  In 1948, The white National Party launches apartheid in the run-up to the 1948 national elections. It wins popular support among white voters who want to maintain their dominance over the Black majority. In 1955, Tutu marries Nomalizo Leah Shenxane and begins teaching at a high school in Johannesburg where his father is the headmaster.

8 September 1977: Bishop Tutu with his wife Leah
(Photo by Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Joe Sefale)

In 1958, Tutu resigns from the school, refusing to be part of a teaching system that promotes inequality against Black students and he joins the priesthood. In 1962, Tutu moves to Britain to study theology at King’s College London.  In 1966, Tutu moves back to South Africa and starts teaching theology at a seminary in the Eastern Cape. He also begins making his views against apartheid known.

In 1975, Tutu becomes the first Black Anglican Dean of Johannesburg and in 1980, in his capacity as general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, Tutu leads a delegation of church leaders to Prime Minister PW Botha, urging him to end apartheid. Although nothing comes of the meeting, it is a historical moment, where a Black leader confronts a senior white government official. The government confiscates Tutu’s passport.

Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg, flanked by Bishop Sigisbert Ndwandwe (left) and Bishop Simeon Nkoane, leads a protest through the streets of Johannesburg on April 3, 1985 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
(Photo by Gallo Images/ Rand Daily Mail/Arena Holdings/Robert Tshabalala)

In 1984, Tutu is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring about the end of white minority rule and in 1985, Tutu becomes the first Black Bishop of Johannesburg. He publicly endorses an economic boycott of South Africa and civil disobedience as a way to dismantle apartheid.

May 2, 1986: An SAP officer escorts Bishop Tutu to the officer in command in Vredefort to confirm Bishop Ndwandwe.
(Photo by Gallo Images / Business Day / Walter Dhladhla)

In 1986, Tutu becomes the first Black person appointed as Bishop of Cape Town and Head of the Anglican Church of the Province of Southern Africa. With other church leaders he mediates conflicts between Black protesters and government security forces.

9 April 1981: Bishop Tutu at Jan Smuts Airport, returning from his trip to the UN.
(Photo by Gallo Images / Avusa / Rene Oosthuisen)

 In 1990, State President FW de Klerk unbans the African National Congress (ANC) and announces plans to release Nelson Mandela from prison. In 1991, the apartheid laws and racist restrictions of petty apartheid are repealed, Power-sharing talks start between the state and 16 anti-apartheid groups, in South Africa. 1994 – After Mandela sweeps to power at the helm of the ANC in the country’s first democratic elections, Tutu coins the term “Rainbow Nation” to describe the coming together of various races in post-apartheid South Africa.

In 1994, Mandela asks Tutu to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was set up to listen to, record and in some cases grant amnesty to perpetrators of human right violations under apartheid.

11 November 1997: Dr Alec Boraine, TRC deputy chairperson, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Chairperson) at a TRC hearing.
(Photo by Gallo Images / Business Day / Lori Waselchuk)

In 1996,Tutu retires from the church to focus solely on the commission. He continues his activism, advocating equality and reconciliation, and is later named Archbishop Emeritus. In 1997, Tutu is diagnosed with prostate cancer. He has since been hospitalised to treat recurring infections. In 2011, The Dalai Lama inaugurates the annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture but does so via satellite link after the South African government denies the Tibetan spiritual leader a visa to attend.

The Spiritual leader the Dalai Lama greets South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the Tibetan Buddhist Temple in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India, on 10 February 2012.

In 2013, Tutu makes outspoken comments about the ANC. He says he will no longer vote for the party because it had done a bad job addressing inequality, violence and corruption. He was dubbed “the moral compass of the nation”, Tutu declares his support for gay rights, saying he would never “worship a God who is homophobic”.

In October 2021, a frail-looking Tutu is wheeled into his former parish at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, which used to be a safe haven for anti-apartheid activists, for a special thanksgiving service marking his 90th  birthday and pass on peacefully on Sunday 26th December 2021after a long battle with complications from the Arch’s primary illness.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu at his 90th birthday Eucharist service at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

The Bottom Line is that The Arch, as a global “Moral Compass[15]”,  represented the best of humanoids, which came out of Africa and indeed the world.  His profound words of wisdom, coupled with result producing actions, rather than hypocritical “lip service”  legacy will live eternally, long after the natural end of his long glorious life of great, fulfilling and uplifting the fellow oppressed humanoids of  90 years.  Tomorrow, as the world, extending from Chatham Islands to San Francisco, welcomes 2022, after the two days of lying in state to allow the queues of South African public to pay their last respects, an official state funeral, is scheduled for 01st January 2022.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa described The Arch as “a patriot without equal; a leader of principle and pragmatism who gave meaning to the biblical insight that faith without works is dead”.[16] The Arch’s physical body will be cremated and his ashes will be dispersed in the church grounds, returning his mortal remains, back to the elements of his origins, but his jovially, fighting and genuinely caring spirit,  as well as his relevant quotes will be treasured by the present and future generations of humanoids, worldwide.   Hopefully, the world would have learnt from his divine wisdom.  The Emeritus Archbishop, lived through the rationing and agony of  World War 11, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Americans, several cold wars, bringing the globe to the brink of nuclear holocaust, the harshest of times of the suppressive  apartheid regime, in South Africa, which discriminated against the Lord’s creations, based on colour and phenotype, deeply entrenched in the official legislature of South Africa and was a contemporary of the great Madiba.

The Arch and Mandela as contemporaries

Archbishop Tutu was  awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in South Africa, constantly watched, but remained untouched by the brutal security forces, in apartheid South Africa, was the Chair of the Truth and reconciliation Commission, who shared the agony of the relatives of anti-apartheid victims, some of who were tortured and fed to crocodiles, was adored by Presidents[17] and Royalty[18], despised by the current ruling party of the government of South Africa, when he spoke against the state capture and the current, rampant corruption.[19]

The Arch, The Queen and The President Mandela

The Arch simply passed away, at a graceful old age, as a cause of demise of some Humanoids.  That is the Master Plan of Lord and “Which is it, of the Favours of your Lord, that ye deny?”[20] However, the Arch led by example, and it is now time for all South Africans and indeed the global community, to carry the extremely heavy baton and continue lending our voices and actions to the causes Archbishop Tutu stood for. in the name of a more radical love.[21]

Simplistic Dignity in the Loneliness of Death of the Arch

The body of Archbishop Desmond Tutu was reduced to dust by a body disposal process, called  aquamation. This a new cremation method uses water, heat and alkali, instead of fire, which the  funerary parlours are touting as environmentally friendly. The technology was introduced to South Africa in 2019 and shows the Arch’s care for the environment, even in death.  Archbishop Thabo Makgoba laid the ashes of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu to rest at the high altar of St George’s Cathedral, with members of the Tutu family and Dean Michael Weeder of the Cathedral in the background as shown in the picture taken by Benny Gool. [22]

The Ashes of Arch Desmond Tutu

























Professor G. Hoosen M. Vawda (Bsc; MBChB; PhD.Wits) is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.
Director: Glastonbury Medical Research Centre; Community Health and Indigent Programme Services; Body Donor Foundation SA.

Principal Investigator: Multinational Clinical Trials
Consultant: Medical and General Research Ethics; Internal Medicine and Clinical Psychiatry:UKZN, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine
Executive Member: Inter Religious Council KZN SA
Public Liaison: Medical Misadventures
Activism: Justice for All

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 3 Jan 2022.

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