Posted on Wednesday October 6, 2021 | 03:43
Updated 38 minutes ago
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) – As South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu turns 90, recent racist graffiti on a portrait of the Nobel Prize winner underscores the continued relevance of its work for equality.
Often hailed as the conscience of South Africa, Tutu was a key activist against South Africa’s previous brutal system of oppression against the country’s black majority. After the advent of democracy in South Africa in 1994, he continued to be a strong advocate for reconciliation, justice and LGBT rights.
The racial insult sprayed last month on a Tutu mural in Cape Town is “disgusting and sad,” said Mamphela Ramphele, acting president of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Trust.
South Africans must continue Tutu’s work for racial equality, she told The Associated Press.
“Racism is a curse from which South Africa must escape,” Ramphele said. “Archbishop Tutu’s legacy is enormous. He fought against racism and fought for the humanity of all of us. ”
Although frail, Tutu is expected to attend a service on Thursday, his birthday, at St. George’s Cathedral in central Cape Town, where, as the country’s first black Anglican archbishop, he delivered sermons denouncing apartheid.
He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his campaign of nonviolent opposition to South Africa’s system of white minority domination.
After retiring as Archbishop in 1996, Tutu served as Chairman of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission which investigated human rights violations during the apartheid era.
Despite the seriousness of his work, Tutu brought irrepressible humor to his frequent public appearances. He notably supported LGBT rights and same-sex marriage.
“I wouldn’t worship a homophobic God and that’s how I feel deeply about it,” he said in 2013. “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say, ‘Sorry, I would much prefer to go to the other place.
Tutu said he was “as passionate about this campaign (for LGBT rights) as I have ever been about apartheid. For me it’s on the same level.”
He retired from public life in 2010 and issued statements through his foundation. He was treated for prostate cancer and was hospitalized several times in 2015 and 2016, and underwent surgery to treat recurrent infections from previous cancer treatments.
During the church service on Thursday, another anti-apartheid activist, Alan Boesak, is scheduled to speak. There will also be an online seminar on the life and values of Tutu which will be addressed by the Dalai Lama; Nelson Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel; former Irish Prime Minister Mary Robinson; and South African governance advocate Thuli Madonsela.