Desmond Tutu

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Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born on the 7th of October 1931 is a South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop who rose to worldwide fame during the 1980s as an opponent of apartheid.

He has campaigned to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, poverty, racism, sexism, the imprisonment of Chelsea Manning, homophobia and transphobia.

He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984; the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism in 1986; the Pacem in Terris Award in 1987; the Sydney Peace Prize in 1999; the Gandhi Peace Prize in 2007; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

Although Tutu wanted to become a doctor, his family could not afford the training, and he followed his father’s footsteps into teaching.

Tutu studied at the Pretoria Bantu Normal College from 1951 to 1953, and went on to teach at Johannesburg Bantu High School and at Munsienville High School in Mogale City.

However, he resigned following the passage of the Bantu Education Act, in protest of the poor educational prospects for black South Africans.

He continued his studies, this time in theology, at St Peter’s Theology College in Rosettenville, Johannesburg, and in 1960 was ordained as an Anglican priest following in the footsteps of his mentor and fellow activist, Trevor Huddleston.

On the 2nd of July 1955, Tutu married Nomalizo Leah Shenxane, a teacher whom he had met while at college. They had four children: Trevor Thamsanqa Tutu, Theresa Thandeka Tutu, Naomi Nontombi Tutu and Mpho Andrea Tutu, all of whom attended the Waterford Kamhlaba School in Swaziland.

His son, Trevor Tutu, caused a bomb scare at East London Airport in 1989 and was arrested.

In 1991, he was convicted of contravening the Civil Aviation Act by falsely claiming there had been a bomb on board a South African Airways’ plane at East London Airport.

The bomb threat delayed the Johannesburg-bound flight for more than three hours, costing South African Airways some R28000.

At the time, Trevor Tutu announced his intention to appeal against his sentence, but failed to arrive for the appeal hearings.

Tutu was Bishop of Lesotho from 1976 until 1978, when he became Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches.

From this position, he was able to continue his work against apartheid with agreement from nearly all churches.

Through his writings and lectures at home and abroad, Tutu consistently advocated reconciliation between all parties involved in apartheid.

Tutu’s opposition to apartheid was vigorous and unequivocal, and he was outspoken both in South Africa and abroad.

He often compared apartheid to Nazism; as a result the government twice revoked his passport, and he was jailed briefly in 1980 after a protest march.

It was thought by many that Tutu’s increasing international reputation and his rigorous advocacy of non-violence protected him from harsher penalties.

Desmond Tutu’s extensive efforts to support noble causes have fetched him a number of prestigious awards.

Tutu was awarded the highly coveted Noble Peace Prize in 1984, for his contribution towards resolving the issue of apartheid.

Three years later, he was awarded the ‘Pacem in Terris’ Award. He won the ‘Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award’ in 1992 and in 1999; Tutu was entitled to the ‘Sydney Peace Prize’.