Skip to main content

Desmond Mpilo Tutu (born 7 October 1931) is a South African Anglican cleric and theologian known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist. He was the Bishop of Johannesburg  and the Archbishop of Cape Town from, being the first black African to hold the positions. He sought to fuse ideas from black theology with African theology.

He was ordained as an Anglican priest and moved to the UK to study theology at King’s College London. He returned to southern Africa, teaching at the Federal Theological Seminary and the University of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland. He became the Theological Education Fund’s director for Africa, based in London but necessitating regular tours of the African continent. He served first as dean of St Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg and as Bishop of Lesotho, taking an active role in opposition to South Africa’s apartheid system. He was general-secretary of the South African Council of Churches, emerging as one of South Africa’s most prominent anti-apartheid activists. Although warning the National Party government that anger at apartheid would lead to racial violence, as an activist he stressed non-violent protest and foreign economic pressure to bring about universal suffrage.

He became president of the All Africa Conference of Churches, resulting in further tours of the continent. After President F. W. de Klerk released the anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela from prison, the pair led negotiations to end apartheid and introduce multi-racial democracy, He assisted as a mediator between rival black factions. In a coalition government headed by Mandela, selected him to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He has campaigned for gay rights and spoken out on a wide range of subjects, the Israel-Palestine conflict, his opposition to the Iraq War, and his criticism of South African Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma.

He was popular among South Africa’s black majority and was internationally praised for his anti-apartheid activism, receiving a range of awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize. He has compiled several books of his speeches and sermons.

Leave a Reply