Speed Reads

Truth and Reconciliation

Desmond Tutu, Anglican archbishop who helped end apartheid, dead at 90

Desmond Tutu — the South African civil rights campaigner, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and retired Anglican archbishop — died Sunday in Cape Town at the age of 90, Reuters reports.

No cause of death was provided, but according to The New York Times, Tutu had been fighting a long battle against prostate cancer.

Tutu was ordained an Anglican priest in 1961, consecrated a bishop in 1975, and installed as archbishop of Cape Town in 1986. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his nonviolent activism in the anti-apartheid movement.

In 1990, former South African President F. W. de Klerk released Nelson Mandela from prison and took other steps to facilitate the country's transition to multi-racial democracy. Tutu served from 1996 until 1998 as chair of the new government's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which brought to light injustices committed under the apartheid regime, offering amnesty to the perpetrators and restitution to the victims under the principles of "restorative justice."

Even after his retirement from his civil and ecclesiastical positions, Tutu remained active. He clashed publicly with several of Mandela's presidential successors, spoke out for gay rights, and opposed Israel's occupation of Palestine.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa posted a thread of tweets announcing Tutu's death and calling him "a leader of principle and pragmatism who gave meaning to the biblical insight that faith without works is dead." Ramaphosa also referred to Tutu's death as "another chapter of bereavement in our nation's farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa." F. W. de Klerk died last month.

Tutu is survived by four children, seven grandchildren and his wife, Nomalizo Leah Shenxane, to whom he was married for more than 65 years.