Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and veteran of South Africa’s fight against the white minority regime, has died at the age of 90, the presidency announced on Sunday.
Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the late 1990s and in recent years has been hospitalized several times to treat infections associated with his cancer treatment.
“Ultimately, at the age of 90, he passed away peacefully at the Oasis Frail Care Center in Cape Town this morning”, Dr. Ramphela Mamphele, Acting President of Archbishop Desmond Tutu IP Trust and Office Coordinator of the archbishop, said in a statement on behalf of the Tutu family.
The outspoken Tutu was seen as the conscience of the nation by blacks and whites, a lasting testament to his faith and spirit of reconciliation in a divided nation.
He preached against the tyranny of the white minority and even after its end. He never wavered in his fight for a fairer South Africa, calling the black political elite to account as fiercely as he did white Afrikaners.
In his later years, he regretted that his dream of a “rainbow nation” had not yet come true.
On the global stage, the human rights activist has spoken on a range of topics, from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories to gay rights, climate change and assisted death – questions that cemented Tutu’s broad appeal.
“The passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is another chapter of mourning in our nation’s farewell to a generation of exceptional South Africans who left us a liberated South Africa,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Speaking and traveling tirelessly throughout the 1980s, Tutu became the face of the anti-apartheid movement abroad as many rebel African National Congress (ANC) leaders like Nelson Mandela were behind bars.
“Our earth is burning and bleeding and I therefore call on the international community to apply punitive sanctions against this government”, he declared in 1986.
Even though governments ignored the call, it helped spark popular campaigns around the world that fought for an end to apartheid through economic and cultural boycotts.
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