Desmond Tutu: Mourning for the “conscience of South Africa”

Status: December 26, 2021 12:22 p.m.

Nelson Mandela called him the “voice of blacks”, others called him the “grandfather of the nation of South Africa”: Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former Archbishop of Cape Town, has died.

By Jana Genth, ARD-Studio Johannesburg

A small, lively man, almost 80 years old, is jumping up and down in front of a huge video screen. The yellow-green soccer jersey stretches across the stomach. He wears a bobble hat and shakes his back and arms cheerfully – a bit like a duck dance.

Jana Genth
ARD-Studio Johannesburg

It’s not a comedian who dances here. It is the former Archbishop of Cape Town and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Mpilo Tutu. His appearance in front of tens of thousands at the opening concert of the 2010 World Cup was typical: a dignitary as an entertainer, whose appeal for brotherhood and reconciliation always became a happy message.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu is dead

Richard Klug, ARD Johannesburg, daily news 11:50 a.m., December 26th, 2021

Torture and Death during Apartheid

But the world had already seen the archbishop’s vulnerable side: the slumped tutu crying in front of the cameras. A small man in a purple bishop’s robe on the podium, hands clasped over his face, sobbing. In front of him is a man in a wheelchair, tortured and telling of his imprisonment and torture during the apartheid years.

As chairman of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Tutu heard thousands of such cases. Again and again: torture, kidnapping, death. “It was terrible. Yes, admittedly, I cry easily, but I collapsed on the first day. But then I said to myself: It’s not fair. God, you can’t let that happen. Because the media immediately focused on me . And no longer on the people who had something to say – on the victims. “

Denouncing crimes of the apartheid government

Tutu was born in 1931 in the black ghetto of the mining town of Klerksdorp near Johannesburg. He wanted to become a doctor, but the education was too expensive for his family. So he first became a teacher, but quit after a short time – that was his protest against the government’s decision to train black students worse than white. Tutu embarked on a theological career, first becoming a priest, then the first black Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg and later Archbishop of Cape Town.

During this time, Tutu became a staunch anti-apartheid activist. The charismatic clergyman restlessly used his role and his influence to remember the catastrophic situation of his compatriots and to denounce the crimes of the apartheid government.

I think it is important to stress again and again that the situation in South Africa is violent. It’s the violence of apartheid. It is the violence of the forced relocation of the population. It is the violence of inferior education for blacks. It is the violence of exclusion. It’s the violence of migrant labor and so on.

Reconciler and mediator

In 1984 he was rewarded for his struggle: he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent commitment to human rights and against apartheid.

But even after the end of apartheid, Tutu was challenged – as a reconciler and mediator. South Africa was a powder keg. After the brutal years of racial segregation, the distrust between black and white was too great.

In order to unite the torn country, the government set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission TRC. The perpetrators were promised an amnesty. That was an unreasonable expectation for the victims, but at least they were finally able to find out the truth about abducted or killed relatives. And for the first time, they themselves found a hearing for their traumatic experiences. More than 20,000 cases of torture, attacks, kidnapping and murder were tried between 1996 and 98 – under the chairmanship of Tutu. “It was like opening a scabbed wound that seemed to heal. Opening that wound was a painful process – cleaning it. But then you put a healing ointment on it.”

Desmond Tutu with his wife Leah – they were married for almost 70 years.

Build: AP

Moral authority in the country

In the years that followed, Tutu remained the “tormenting spirit of justice” – that’s what he liked to call himself. In doing so, he did not spare the ruling ANC party, which he had supported for decades. And that long after his supposed retirement, which he wanted to enjoy relaxed with his wife Leah. He didn’t want to give any more interviews – that should end.

The tutus were married for almost 70 years. Leah, it is said, valued the neat marriage quarrel and loved bringing her globally adored husband back to the ground.

Tutu was an eternal reconciler who could step out of line and still not lose his authority or integrity. After Nelson Mandela’s death he was the moral authority in the country. The world mourns the loss of a man who went down in history as the “conscience of South Africa”.

The Conscience of South Africa – An Obituary for Desmond Tutu

Jana Genth, ARD Johannesburg, 26.12.2021 · 09:55

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