‘A man of words and action’: Tributes paid to Desmond Tutu following death

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  • Desmond Tutu
    Desmond Tutu
    South African churchman, politician, archbishop, Nobel Prize winner (1931–2021)
  • Cyril Ramaphosa
    5th President of South Africa
Desmond Tutu has died aged 90 (Chris Radburn/PA) (PA Wire)
Desmond Tutu has died aged 90 (Chris Radburn/PA) (PA Wire)

Tributes have been paid to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu following his death aged 90.

Tutu, who helped end apartheid in South Africa died in Cape Town on Boxing Day.

Piyushi Kotecha, chief executive of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, and chairman Niclas Kjellstrom-Matseke said in a statement that Tutu was “a living embodiment of faith in action”.

In a statement on the foundation’s website, they added he spoke “boldly against racism, injustice, corruption and oppression, not just in apartheid South Africa but wherever in the world he saw wrongdoing, especially when it impacted the most vulnerable and voiceless in society.”

According to the trust, he died peacefully at the Oasis Frail Care Centre in Cape Town. A cause of death has not been given.

Nicknamed “The Arch”, Tutu was made the first black Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town in 1986 and was a driving force to end the policy of racial segregation and discrimination in South Africa from 1948 until the early 1990s.

His work led to him receiving numerous doctorates and academic awards from all over the world. He retired from public life in 2010 yet continued to do charity work through the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said it was “another chapter of bereavement in our nation’s farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa.”

“Desmond Tutu was a patriot without equal; a leader of principle and pragmatism who gave meaning to the biblical insight that faith without works is dead,” he tweeted.

“We pray that Archbishop Tutu’s soul will rest in peace but that his spirit will stand sentry over the future of our nation.”

The Nelson Mandela Foundation, which highlighted the friendship between the pair, said the loss of Tutu is “immeasurable”.

“He was larger than life, and for so many in South Africa and around the world his life has been a blessing,” a statement from the charity said.

Desmond Tutu, with his wife Leah at Heathrow Airport (PA) (PA Wire)
Desmond Tutu, with his wife Leah at Heathrow Airport (PA) (PA Wire)

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, described Tutu as “a man of words and action”.

He told Sky News: “He was the rainbow leader. He didn’t stick with one group. He defended the rights of LGBT people in the Constitution. He defended the rights of former enemies.”

Outlining Tutu’s legacy, he added: “Can we be a humanity that says, ‘My gain need not be your loss? Your gain need not be my loss? We can both flourish and grow’. That is, I think, the greatest part of Tutu’s legacy for the world.”

Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell described him as a “giant”, adding that “the world itself feels a little smaller without him”.

“His expansive vision of how the Christian faith shapes the whole of life has touched many hearts and changed many lives,” he said in a statement.

“The Anglican church in particular gives thanks for one of its greatest saints. But Christian people everywhere, and all people of goodwill, will today be mourning the loss of someone who showed the world what following Jesus looks like and where it leads.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tutu would be remembered for his leadership and humour.

He said: “I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

“He was a critical figure in the fight against apartheid and in the struggle to create a new South Africa – and will be remembered for his spiritual leadership and irrepressible good humour.”

Strictly Come Dancing stars Oti and Motsi Mabuse, who grew up in South Africa, joined a host of people in remembering Tutu.

Oti, a dancer on the show, tweeted: “Oh no sad news” and said it was a “major loss” for South Africa.

Strictly Judge Motsi shared a quote on Twitter which read: “Forgiving is not forgetting; its actually remembering – remembering and not using your right to hit back. It’s a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you don’t want to repeat what happened. R.I.P Desmond Tutu.”

Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson reflected on his friendship with the archbishop in a statement on his website, and recalled a moment between the pair.

He wrote: “Arch was one of the most positive, funny, life-affirming people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He had no airs and graces, and always made everyone laugh. ‘I don’t know why, but some people accuse me of name-dropping,’ he told me once. ‘I just happened to have lunch with the Queen at Buckingham Palace the other day and she said, ‘Arch, you are SUCH a name-dropper!’.”

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