Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

A Brief History of South Africa, Part IV

Even in North America, most people know who Nelson Mandela is – although their first thought may be of Morgan Freeman in the 2009 movie Invictus.  Lesser known, however, is another ZA Nobel Peace Prize winner, Desmond Tutu.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Tutu, born in 1931, is a retired Anglican bishop who was extremely outspoken against apartheid during the 1970s and 80s.  Not only was he vocal against the ruling National Party, he also frequently criticized the African National Congress (ANC) – particularly for its violent tactics.  Furthermore, he supported an economic boycott of South Africa and condemned the US and UK for their investment in his country.

Tutu began his career as a teacher, but resigned to protest the Bantu Education Act that was passed in 1953.  The Act legalized the enforcement of racially separated schools as practiced in the apartheid system.  Tutu began studying theology and subsequently became Bishop of Lesotho in 1976.  In 1978 he became Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches.  Eventually Tutu was appointed the first black South African Archbishop of Cape Town. 

Tutu used his sermons to criticize apartheid as well as promote peace and reconciliation.  Today he is often called “South Africa’s moral conscience” and still speaks out against a range of topics from xenophobia to climate change to the ANC’s current political platform.  Moreover, he continues to advocate for progressive issues such as control of TB and HIV, women’s rights, and acceptance of homosexuality.


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