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Desmond Tutu/Tutu's role during apartheid

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Desmond Tutu
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The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu
Early Life
Tutu's role during apartheid
Tutu's role since apartheid
Role in South Africa
Chairman of the Elders
Role in the Third World
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United Nations Role
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Tutu's role during apartheid

In 1976 the protests in Soweto, also known as the Soweto Riots, against the government's use of Afrikaans as a compulsory medium of instruction in black schools became a massive uprising against apartheid. From then on Tutu supported an economic boycott of his country. He vigorously opposed the "constructive engagement" policy of the Reagan administration in the United States, which advocated "friendly persuasion". Tutu rather supported disinvestment, although it hit the poor hardest, for if disinvestment threw blacks out of work, Tutu argued, at least they would be suffering "with a purpose". In 1985 the US and the UK (two primary investors into South Africa) stopped any investments. As a result, disinvestment did succeed, causing the value of the Rand to plunge down more than 35 percent, and pressuring the government toward reform. Tutu pressed the advantage and organised peaceful marches which brought 30,000 people onto the streets of Cape Town. That was the turning point: within months, Nelson Mandela was freed from prison, and apartheid was beginning to crumble.[1]

Tutu was Bishop of Lesotho from 1976 until 1978, when he became Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches. From this position, he was able to continue his work against apartheid with agreement from nearly all churches. Tutu consistently advocated reconciliation between all parties involved in apartheid through his writings and lectures at home and abroad. Tutu's opposition to apartheid was vigorous and unequivocal, and he was outspoken both in South Africa and abroad. He often compared apartheid was chosen in his stead. Tutu has commented that he is "glad" that he was not chosen, as once installed to Nazism and Communism, as a result the government twice revoked his passport, and he was jailed briefly in 1980 after a protest march. It was thought by many that Tutu's increasing international reputation and his rigorous advocacy of non-violence protected him from harsher penalties. Tutu was also harsh in his criticism of the violent tactics of some anti-apartheid groups such as the African National Congress and denounced terrorism and Communism. When a new constitution was proposed for South Africa in 1983 to defend against the anti-apartheid movement, Tutu helped form the National Forum Committee to fight the constitutional changes.[2] Despite his opposition to apartheid Tutu was criticised for "selective indignation" by his passive attitude towards the coup regime in Lesotho (1970–86), where he had taught from 1970-2 and served as Bishop 1976-1978, leaving just as civil war broke out. This contrasted poorly with the courageous stance of Lesotho Evangelical Church personnel who were murdered by the regime. After 1994 his Truth and Reconciliation Council work was criticised for impeding justice for those who had committed atrocities.

In 1985, Tutu was appointed the Bishop of Johannesburg before he became the first black person to lead the Anglican Church in South Africa when, on 7 September 1986, he became Archbishop of Cape Town on the retirement of former Archbishop Philip Welsford Richmond Russell. From 1987 to 1997 he was president of the All Africa Conference of Churches. In 1989 he was invited to Birmingham, England, United Kingdom as part of Citywide Christian Celebrations. Tutu and his wife visited many establishments including the Nelson Mandela School in Sparkbrook.

Tutu was considered as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1990, however George Carey

in Lambeth Palace, he would have been homesick for South Africa, unhappy to be away from home during a critical time in the country's history.[3]

In 1990, Tutu and the ex-Vice Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape Professor Jakes Gerwel founded the Desmond Tutu Educational Trust. The Trust was established to fund developmental programmes in tertiary education and provides capacity building at 17 historically disadvantaged institutions. Tutu's work as a mediator in order to prevent all-out racial war was evident at the funeral of South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani in 1993. Tutu spurred a crowd of 120,000 to repeat after him the chants, over and over: "We will be free!", "All of us!", "Black and white together!" and finished his speech saying:

"We are the rainbow people of God! We are unstoppable! Nobody can stop us on our march to victory! No one, no guns, nothing! Nothing will stop us, for we are moving to freedom! We are moving to freedom and nobody can stop us! For God is on our side!"[4]

In 1993, he was a patron of the Cape Town Olympic Bid Committee. In 1994 he was an appointed a patron of the World Campaign Against Military and Nuclear Collaboration with South Africa, Beacon Millennium and Action from Ireland. In 1995 he was appointed a Chaplain and Sub-Prelate of the Venerable Order of Saint John by Queen Elizabeth II,[5] and he became a patron of the American Harmony Child Foundation and the Hospice Association of Southern Africa.


  1. Wood, Lawrence (17 October 2006). "Tutu's story". The Christian Century. http://www.christiancentury.org/article.lasso?id=2441. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  2. Tutu, Desmond (1994). The Rainbow People of God: The Making of a Peaceful Revolution. New York: Doubleday. 
  3. "Tutu calls for church reform". BBC. 10 June 2002. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/2036677.stm. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  4. Carlin, John (12 November 2006). "Former aide John Allen’s authorised biography offers an intimate view of Desmond Tutu". The Observer. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,1945580,00.html. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  5. Template:LondonGazette

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