Tribute to Archbishop Desmond Tutu (+ December 2021)

Mario Aguilar
Sunday 26 December 2021

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has died today, a dear friend, a prophetic Christian and a Patron of the Centre for the Study of Religion and Politics (CSRP) of the University of St. Andrews. He shall be remembered because of his joy for life and his solidarity with the poor and the marginalised at a time when blackness was not allowed in South Africa, and the defense of human rights and the human in general could get you killed.

I wrote the following text on his life as chapter 5 of Mario I. Aguilar, Contemplating God, Changing the World. London: SPCK, 2008.

Chapter 5: Archbishop Desmond Tutu

(c) Mario I. Aguilar

For many years we got accustomed to watch images on the television of unrest and violence in South Africa. Some of us kept attending vigils in Trafalgar Square in front of the South Africa High Commission. Within those images of the 1980s Archbishop Desmond Tutu remains as one of those who were always present on our screens, always happy, always dancing but directly opposed to any racial discrimination and to the system of apartheid. When in 1984 Tutu was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace it was globally recognized that a man of prayer and deep contemplation was making a central contribution not only to the unity of humanity but to a further understanding of God and his work within the contemporary world and for a future just society. Always direct on his assessment of contemporary issues in his Nobel Lecture he told the distinguished audience the following short story: ‘Once a Zambian and a South African, it is said were talking. The Zambian then boasted about their Minister of Naval Affairs. The South African asked: “But you have no navy, no access to the sea. How then can you have a Minister of Naval Affairs?” The Zambian retorted, “Well, in South Africa you have a Minister of Justice, don’t you?”[1]

Born to Contemplate

Desmond Tutu was born in 1931 in Klerkdorp, Transvaal. His father was a teacher and he studied at Johannesburg Bantu High School, a school popularly known as Madibane High after its charismatic principal.[2] The Native Lands Act of 1913 caused great suffering for traditional black areas by which black Africans could not buy or lease other lands. Black Africans had to carry passes as to go into White areas and urban settlements grew out of possibilities of employment for Africans who could not live close to their employment. Thus, Tutu’s upbringing took place in the midst of continuous arrests of Africans who trespassed into other areas, failed to carry a ‘pass book’, etc. It is estimated that ‘an average of 250,000 people a year were arrested for violations of the pass laws between 1916 and 1981’.[3] After leaving school he trained as a teacher at Pretoria Bantu Normal College and in 1954 he graduated from the University of South Africa on the year when the South African Government decided to take African education from the hands of the churches and proclaimed that Africans were destined for certain kinds of labour and that full education was a European path for Europeans and not for Africans.[4] Within that difficult educational climate Tutu worked as a teacher for three years and started his studies for the Anglican priesthood being ordained as a deacon in 1960 and as a priest in 1961, the year in which South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth due to protests within that organization against the South African regime led by the African states, Canada and India. Between 1962 and 1966 he studied in London where he completed his Bachelor of Divinity degree and Master’s degree in Theology. On his return to South Africa he joined the staff of the Federal Theological Seminary and was a chaplain at the University of Fort Hare returning to England as associate director of the Theological Educational Fund of the World Council of Churches based in Kent. In 1975 Tutu was appointed Dean of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg, the first black African to hold the post. In 1976 he was appointed Bishop of Lesotho and in 1978 he became General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, the representative organization of the World Council of Churches in South Africa.[5] From 1985 until his retirement he was Bishop of Johannesburg.

Tutu’s first public dialogue with the state took place in 1976 and can be considered the coming out of the contemplative supporter of social justice and of the Kingdom of God. During 1976 Tutu became Dean of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg, the first black African to hold a major post in South Africa’s metropolitan area, however he didn’t seek permission to live in a White only area but he decided to live in the South Western Townships or Soweto. On 6 May 1976 Tutu wrote a letter to John Vorster, Prime Minister of South Africa, resident of Cape Town outlining the possibilities of bloodshed in the country.[6] That was his second letter to Vorster; the first one dated back to 1972 when Tutu had been refused a South African passport in order to take up his post as Associate Director of the Theological Educational Fund and after Vorster intercession with the proper authorities Tutu was given a passport. Tutu wrote as follows in a personal letter that later became public and in which he feared for violence in a country that recently had supported a national rugby team against Argentina and which made all South Africans, White and Black a united people through sport:

I am writing to you, Sir, because I have a growing nightmarish fear that unless something drastic is done very soon then bloodshed and violence are going to happen in South Africa almost inevitably. A people can take only so much and no more. The history of you own people which I referred to earlier demonstrated this, Vietnam has shown this, the struggle against Portugal has shown this […] A people made desperate by despair, injustice and oppression will use desperate means.[7]

By 1976 apartheid was at its peak and there was considerable domestic unrest in South Africa, social tension that had been bottled in for years since the legislative acceptance of apartheid and the laws that made it possible in 1948. Thus, in order to understand Tutu’s life which after all was an ongoing personal confrontation with apartheid in the name of God one must understand the historical development of apartheid.[8]

The Heresy of Apartheid

Apartheid means ‘separateness’ in the Afrikaans language and socially meant a complete social separation between Whites and others be they African, Coloured or Indian. The political enactment of apartheid took place after 1948 when the National Party (NP) won the South African elections and its policy of separation became national policy until the early 1990s. The architect of apartheid was Dr. H.F. Verwoerd, Minister of Native Affairs (1951-1958) and later Prime Minister (1958-1966), however the social separation coincides with a long history of social segregation going back to the 19th Century and related to the increasing division of labour related to the growing discovery and exploitation of South Africa’s mineral resources.[9] In 1910 the British Government passed legislation that unified the Afrikaner republics and the British colonies but only a small number of black Africans from the province of the Cape were allowed to vote within the newly constituted South Africa. In 1912 the black Africans formed the South African Native National Congress that later became the African National Congress (ANC).[10]

The NP enforced the Population Registration Act of 1951 by which all South Africans were classified by race: European (White), Native (Bantu/African), Coloured and Indian (Asian). This typology of social separation dictated where individuals lived, where they worked, the education they received, whom they could marry and where they could be buried. Spatial arrangements took place as to provide social segregation marked ‘Whites only’. Together with this social separation there was the exclusion of non-Whites from economic or political power while the so-called Coloured or Indians had more privileges than Africans/Black/Natives. South African land was divided according to migration and labour allocating 87% of the land to Whites and 13% to the so-called Bantu homelands. Within the ‘Bantustans’ customary law was upheld regardless of the people’s choice and the only Africans that could move across borders were those needed for White labour so that the location of one’s birth, fifteen years of residency or ten years continuous employment for the same employer allowed people to claim residency in a particular area of South Africa.

South Africa became a police state as large police forces were needed in order to control the different populations; within that police control all those who challenged the status quo were considered communists and dealt with by the legislation of apartheid. However, in 1955 the ANC together with other groups formed the Congress of the People which declared a freedom charter at Klipfontein that proclaimed a South Africa for all. Later, in 1959 the Pan-African Congress (PAC) was formed as a protest to the Congress arguing that White and Indians were still trying to suppress the voice of black Africans. The PAC called for peaceful demonstrations and in March 1960 at Sharpeville the police killed 67 black Africans and wounded 200 other protestors in what became known as the Sharpeville Massacre and the government banned the existence of the ANC and PAC.

After the Sharpeville Massacre the government moved between three and four million black Africans from the White areas into ten ethnically defined homelands. By 1976 residents of some of the ethnic areas were stripped of their South African nationality and they acquired some sort of self-rule. Those areas included Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei.

Challenges to the absolute control of the South African government did exist and in 1969 the founding of the Black Consciousness Movement building ‘black pride, self-reliance, and defiance in the face of State oppression’ was one of them.[11] The students were particularly involved in the larger movement and in 1969 the foundation of the South African Students’ Organization (SASO) with Stephen Bantu Biko, a medical student, provided an initial social framework for protest.[12] Leaders faced imprisonment and violence, however the movement grew and in 1972 another organization, the Black People’s Convention (BPC) was founded. Biko didn’t face prison like the other leaders but he testified on their behalf and was arrested on 18 August 1977 near Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape. On the following day Biko was handed to the security police in Port Elizabeth. He was kept naked in a cell until his interrogation began on 6 September 1977. On the following day he had to be transported to Pretoria with head injuries and he was transported naked in a police van. He died on 12 September 1977. His death focused international attention on the South African regime and the United Nations Security Council imposed an arms embargo on the South African regime, the first one in the history of the U.N. Biko’s funeral took place in King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape on 25 September and it was attended by 15,000 people included diplomatic delegations from the United States and several Western countries. Desmond Tutu, then Bishop of Lesotho, was one of the speakers and he spoke of Jesus the liberator who was killed in a cross, he appealed to White Christians to show solidarity, he was convinced that the God of Jesus wanted a united country in which all were to live in peace. In his words:

There is no doubt whatsoever that freedom is coming. Yes, it may be a costly struggle still. The darkest hour, they say, is before the dawn. We are experiencing the birth pangs of a new South Africa, a free South Africa, where all of us, black and white together, will walk tall; where all of us, black and white together, will hold hands as we stride forth on the Freedom March to usher in the new South Africa where people will matter because they are human beings made in the image of God.[13]

Previously there had been workers’ strikes in 1972 and 1973 and on 16 June 1976 ten thousand children protested against the imposition of Afrikaans language in schools. Even in that occasion the police fired upon the crowds of children. However, international pressure meant that by the late 1970s trade unions were recognized, passes were abolished and blacks had the possibility of limited urban rights. The churches were still prominent within the life of South Africans but had not yet spoken as a corporate body.[14]

Contemplation and Politics

The role of the churches within South Africa became very prominent with Tutu as General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC, 1978-1985).[15] The SACC had twenty member churches and four observer member churches and represented 15 million Christians with the exclusion of the churches that advocated a White only membership.[16] By 1979 the SACC passed a resolution that advocated civil disobedience in response to apartheid laws.[17] Tutu had been deeply touched by a little girl that explained to him that she lived with her widowed mother and sister; according to the little girl they had no income whatsoever and when hungry they borrowed food, when no food was available they filled their stomachs with water.[18] In December 1979 Tutu assessed the situation for the benefit of the Anglican Provincial Synod of South Africa departing from a reflection on Jesus and his ministry and the prayerful life of Anglican communities reaching the following conclusion:

It is precisely our encounter with Jesus in worship and the sacraments, in Bible reading and meditation, that force us to be concerned about the hungry, about the poor, about the homeless, about the banned and the detained, about the voiceless whose voice we seek to be. How can you say you love God whom you have not seen and hate the brother whom you have? He who loved God must love his brother also.[19]

In June 1980 the SACC asked for a meeting with Prime Minister Botha because of the increasingly tense and deteriorating situation, children of schools had boycotted classes and church workers involved in schools had also been arrested. During May 1980 and in solidarity with them church leaders marched through Johannesburg in a public display of solidarity that was illegal as it was illegal for anybody to demonstrate in public. The SACC President Sam Buti and colleagues met Bota and colleagues in Pretoria on 7 August 1980. During those meetings Tutu spoke of the churches love for their country and their good will towards the authorities, however he also expressed openly the four demands required to improve the socio-political situation in South Africa: (a) common citizenship for all South Africans, (b) the abolition of the pass laws, (c) the stop of people’s removal and uprooting, and (d) the setting of a uniformed educational policy.[20]

By October 1981 Tutu realized that the reforms undertaken by Botha did not lead to a fulfilment of Africans demands and expectations of equality and he assessed the possibility lost in a meeting to a study group in Johannesburg. However, Tutu remarked that it was very clear from the ruling party elections that there was ‘a deeply divided Afrikanerdom’.[21] At the same time the government announced a commission of enquiry on the SACC finances that would extend to an investigation of all its members. The SACC did not have state financial support, thus this was clearly a measure to harass the SACC that had become an enemy to the internal security of South Africa. The commission was headed by a Transvaal judge C.F. Eloff and Tutu gave evidence to the commission in September 1982. In his submission Tutu explained the relation between life and the Scriptures and how all actions within the life of Christians were judged and reviewed according to the life of Jesus. He went further, in case the South African state were to consider their lives within churches as pious actions without socio-political engagement, and he summarized some of his previous analysis of the Bible with the following words:

I have already said we owe our ultimate loyalty and allegiance only to God. With due respect I want to submit that no secular authority nor its appointed commissions has any competence whatsoever to determine how a church is a church, nor what is the nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When secular authority tries to do this then it is usurping divine prerogatives and the prerogatives of the Church itself’.[22]

By 1984 the South African Parliament incorporated Asians and Coloured members but still rejected the possibility of Black Africans having parliamentary rights and Tutu spoke previously at the University of Cape Town in February 1983 of his sense of exclusion. He argued that once again Blacks were treated as strangers, as if they did not exist; however, he was of the opinion that even if they would have been invited to take their places in the chamber they would not have accepted because the reforms did not go far enough and still the majority were excluded from the life of South Africa as a nation.[23] By 1983 the black opposition groups had converged into a United Democratic Front still seen as a political manifestation of the ANC. Unrest grew as South Africa became involved in wars outside its borders and the general sense was that neither the government nor the opposition had enough political power as to solve the political turmoil. There was violence and protest at the August 1984 reforms and the biggest strike in the history of South Africa took place on 4 and 5 November 1984. In December Tutu delivered the Nobel Lecture in Norway accepting a Nobel Prize for Peace and ended with a global call to foster peace and harmony saying: ‘Let us work to be peacemakers, those given a wonderful share in our Lord’s ministry of reconciliation. If we want peace, so we have been told, let us work for justice. Let us beat our swords into ploughshares’.[24]

During 1985 South Africa faced a financial crisis as banks led by the U.S. Chase Manhattan Bank decided not to extend loans to South Africa. There were further talks of reforms and even bankers went abroad to talk to the leadership of the ANC on exile. Violence against informants of the regime claimed lives and Tutu urged people not to use violence. In October, and already as Bishop of Johannesburg, he addressed the Political Committee of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. His exposition of the situation was very clear explaining his own situation to the international community: ‘I am a Bishop in the Church of God. I am fifty-four years old. I am a Nobel laureate. Many would say I am reasonably responsible. In the land of my birth I cannot vote. An eighteen-year-old, because he or she is white (or since August last year so-called Coloured or Indian), can’.[25]

In April 1986 a body from the diocese of Cape Town met in order to finalize the election of a successor for Archbishop Philip Russell who was retiring and was at the same time leader of all Anglicans in South Africa. As Tutu was one of the possible candidates he was asked to speak about his view of different matters related to the church and of course about the challenges of contemporary politics in a segregated South Africa. His appraisal of the situation was realistic and moving:

I have no hope of real change from this government unless they are forced. We face a catastrophe in this land and only the action of the international community by applying pressure can save us. Our children are dying. Our land is burning and bleeding and so I call the international community to apply punitive sanctions against this government to help us establish a new South Africa – non-racial, democratic, participatory and just. This is a non-violent strategy to help us do so.[26]

Despite Tutu’s call for sanctions he was chosen as the new Archbishop of Cape Town and ex-officio was the leader of Anglicans in South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and the Island of St. Helena. On 7 September 1986 he was publicly welcome to St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town and he delivered a sermon stressing the centrality of spiritual realities within a deteriorating South African situation in which 25,000 people were detained between June and December 1986 and 1,300 people died due to political violence during 1986.[27] He asked for the Eucharist to be celebrated daily in every parish of the archdiocese, for people to go on retreats, for fasting, for scriptural reading, for a Christian life that would enforce attitudes of communion within South African society. He told the congregation: ‘I am reiterating calls that have been made before. Could we for instance, as we choose to fast corporately on Fridays, agree to pray especially on that day for our Republic of South Africa that injustice and oppression and unjust rule will end and that God’s righteousness, love, peace and reconciliation will prevail?’.[28]

On 24 February 1988 the South African Government outlawed seventeen anti-apartheid organizations and violence escalated. Already the previous year Tutu in a visit to Maputo had stressed the possibility of martyrdom and the fact that at one point or another use of violence against an unjust regime was justified. On 29 February church leaders met at Cape Town and marched arms together in a single file towards the Parliament Building, an action that was illegal under South African law. They numbered one hundred and fifty and as they faced a police contingent they knelt and sang hymns.[29] The police arrested the leaders and used water canons to disperse the rest ending the day with mass arrests while the foreign media quickly reported that a new era had began as church leaders took to the streets to protest against the regime. They later called for a protest rally on 13 March 1988 that was banned by the government. Thus, church leaders called for an inter-faith meeting on 12 March at which Tutu spoke very strong words:

I finish, my friends, by saying: if they want to take on the Church of God, I warn them. Read a little bit of history and see what happened to those who tried to take on the Church of God. Don’t read all of history. Just read your own history. I just warn them that even if they were to remove this, that, or the other person, the Church of God will stay.[30]

In 1989 President P.W. Botha resigned and there were hopes that a negotiated- settlement could be reached, particularly because the public protests were increasing an ambassadors from 12 European nations had met with church leaders and were putting ever more pressure on the South African government to comply with international standards of equality, law and finances. In February 1990 the new President F.W. de Klerk proclaimed the end of apartheid, authorized the existence of the ANC and the PAC and released Nelson Mandela, political prisoner number 1. Despite the increasing degree of violence South Africa held its first democratic and non-racial elections in April 1994 with the election of Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa in a coalition that included the NP and the Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). Later, on 8 May 1996 South Africa adopted a post-apartheid constitution recognizing the equal rights of all South Africans without allowing for the protection of group rights or provincial autonomy. As a result, the NP left the coalition. However, Desmond Tutu remained part of an ongoing support for a new South Africa of common equality and that had to face its past and years of discrimination and violence. Thus, Tutu became central to the idea of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that required, in cases of major atrocities, a public confession of guilt in order to acquire forgiveness from the state. This constituted a unique view of retributive law within the international community.[31]

The South African TRC

The South African TRC operated from 1995 to 2001 and following the mandate provided by the 1993 Constitution (Act Number 200) and the 1995 National Unity and Reconciliation Act (Number 34, 26 July 1995) it put a heavy emphasis on reconciliation, national building and a culture of human rights. The figure of Archbishop Desmond Tutu was central to such exercise because unlike the work of other TRCs less emphasis was given to legal retribution and punitive justice and more to the process of reconciliation.[32] The following paragraph in Act 34 of 1995 sets up the whole mandate of the TRC in the following terms:

To provide for the investigation and the establishment of as complete a picture as possible of the nature, causes and extent of gross violations of human rights committed during the period from 1 March 1960 to the cut-off date contemplated in the Constitution,[33] within or outside the Republic, emanating from the conflicts of the past, and the fate or whereabouts of the victims of such violations; the granting of amnesty to persons who make full disclosure of all the relevant facts relating to acts associated with a political objective committed in the course of the conflicts of the past during the said period; affording victims an opportunity to relate the violations they suffered; the taking of measures aimed at the granting of reparation to, and the rehabilitation and the restoration of the human and civil dignity of, victims of violations of human rights; reporting to the Nation about such violations and victims; the making of recommendations aimed at the prevention of the commission of gross violations of human rights; and for the said purposes to provide for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a Committee on Human Rights Violations, a Committee on Amnesty and a Committee on Reparation and Rehabilitation; and to confer certain powers on, assign certain functions to and impose certain duties upon that Commission and those Committees; and to provide for matters connected therewith.[34]

In practice and within the works of the South African TRC the idea of a national reconciliation and the centrality of a human being’s justice through truth took over any idea of legal reparation or the accountability of the witnesses in a court of law; indeed some of the complaints about the public manipulation of personal narratives by the perpetrators of human rights abuses was that some of them adapted their narratives so that they would fall within the possibilities of a legal pardon for their crimes.[35] The numbers of those applications for amnesty were larger than anticipated and the Amnesty Committee was unprepared for the 7,046 applications it received by May 1997, the cut-off date for those applications.[36]

Unlike the total privacy granted by the Chilean TRC the South African 1995 Act required ‘gross human rights violations’ to be heard in public.[37] The TRC classified 20% of all applications within this realm of ‘gross’ and therefore ‘public’. Among the 20,000 testimonies by victims of state repression, only some that involved large numbers of people were heard publicly, because most of the time of the commissioners would have been taken for public hearings, broadcasted by the television, on human rights abuses. The public hearings had a cathartic national impact and the forceful but fatherly figure of an embracing Desmond Tutu dominated the proceedings so that it is possible to argue that without Tutu’s moral authority and all-embracing attitude some of the proceedings would never have had the impact they had on nation-building and reconciliation. For Archbishop Tutu was very blunt and clear in stating his sense of forgiveness and reconciliation when he wrote:

True forgiveness deals with the past, all of the past, to make the future possible. We cannot go on nursing grudges even vicariously for those who cannot speak for themselves any longer. We have to accept that what we do we do for generations past, present, and yet to come. That is what makes a community a community or a people a people – for better or for worse.[38]

If the Chilean TRC had not had powers to take any legal action regarding the testimonies of victims and perpetrators, the South African TRC had powers to assert the social truth, to investigate testimonies and to act as a court of law by providing a legal closure and the application of amnesty, thus legal pardon to those who had been perpetrators of human rights abuses and had cooperated with the TRC. According to Graeme Simpson the danger inherent within this amnesty was clear: ‘there is a real possibility that the TRC, by granting amnesty to confessed killers, may actually have contributed to the sense of impunity that fuels the burgeoning rate of violent crime’.[39] Nevertheless, the powers of prosecution/immunity were certainly indigenized by the fact that Archbishop Tutu insisted on the importance of an African sense of community, justice, retribution, truth and reconciliation recalling a concept used by several African groups: ubuntu.[40]

Ubuntu refers to ‘an expression of community, representing a romanticized vision of “the rural African community” based upon reciprocity, respect for human dignity, community cohesion and solidarity’.[41] The concept was invoked in the 1993 Interim Constitution and in Constitutional Court judgements and challenged the patience of some trained barristers who were advocating and sustaining the application of a universal sense of human rights and the compliance by the South African state with international law and international treatises. Archbishop Tutu’s presence at the public hearings prevailed and while the amnesty provisions of the 1995 Act were applied it was the reconciliation and nation building in the public sphere through Tutu’s reflection on ubuntu that made the headlines and even questioned if legal and criminal retribution was the answer to problems of justice, peace and state violence.[42]

The critics of the South African TRC were many; in reality South Africa was able to come out of a despicable period of institutional racism and state repression by the fact that the TRC, while unable to cope with all the tasks assigned to it, combined all legal, political, and philosophical aspects of the past, the present and the future of the South African state. Desmond Tutu had a lot to do with that national success.

However, for those who thought that the Archbishop of Cape Town was a politician one must state clearly that Tutu reached decisions on his public conduct, social and ecclesial conduct, through the daily celebration of the Eucharist, through the constant reading of the Scriptures and long hours contemplating the life and attitudes of Jesus within the Gospels. It was that continuous contemplation of God and his actions that made him available for the Christians of South Africa and without those intense moments of contemplation he would probably have not acted in the same way. In an interview with journalists on 2 February 1990 he had been very clear in stating that ‘religion has a relevance for the whole of life and we have to say whether a particular policy is consistent with the policy of Jesus Christ or not, and if you want to say that that is political, then I will be a politician in those terms’.[43]

[1] Desmond Tutu, ‘Nobel Lecture’, 11 December 1984.

[2] John Allen, ‘A Growing Nightmarish Fear (1976)’ in John Allen (ed.), Archbishop Desmond Tutu: The Rainbow People of God, London and New York: Doubleday, 1994, pp. 4-5.

[3] John Allen, ‘A Growing Nightmarish Fear (1976)’ in John Allen (ed.), Archbishop Desmond Tutu: The Rainbow People of God, p. 4.

[4] On 2 July 1955 he married Leah Nomalizo Tutu and they had four children: Trevor Thamsanqa, Theresa Thandeka, Naomi Nontombi and Mpho Andrea.

[5] See Shirley du Boulay, Tutu: Voice of the Voiceless, London: Penguin, 1989 and Allister Sparks, The Mind of South Africa, New York: Knoft, 1990, and Tore Frängsmyr (Editor-in-Charge) and Irwin Abrams (Ed.), From Nobel Lectures: Peace 1981-1990, Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, 1997.

[6] Desmond Tutu to The Hon Prime Minister John Vorster, 6 May 1976, text available in John Allen (ed.), Archbishop Desmond Tutu: The Rainbow People of God, pp. 7-14.

[7] Desmond Tutu to The Hon Prime Minister John Vorster, 6 May 1976, text available in John Allen (ed.), Archbishop Desmond Tutu: The Rainbow People of God, p. 11.

[8] See Desmond Tutu, Crying in the Wilderness, Oxford: Mowbray, 1986.

[9] See Monica Wilson and Leonard Thompson (eds.), The Oxford History of South Africa, vol. II: South Africa 1870-1966, London: Oxford University Press, 1971.

[10] See Francis Meli, A History of the ANC: South Africa Belongs To Us, London: James Currey, 1988.

[11] John Allen (ed.), Archbishop Desmond Tutu: The Rainbow People of God, p. 15.

[12] See Steve Biko, I Write What I like, edited by C.R. Aelred Stubbs, New York: Harper and Row, 1978.

[13] Archbishop Tutu, ‘Oh God, How Long Can We Go On? (1977) in John Allen (ed.), Archbishop Desmond Tutu: The Rainbow People of God, pp. 17-21 at p. 21.

[14] For an analysis of the 1970s in South Africa see John W. De Gruchy, The Church Struggle in South Africa, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979 and for a theoretical treatment of the changing relations between the churches and the South African state see Charles Villa-Vicencio, Trapped in Apartheid: A Socio-Theological History of the English-Speaking Churches, Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1988 and Civil Disobedience and Beyond: Law, Resistance, and Religion in South Africa, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1990.

[15] For a history of the SACC and the development of the different Christian traditions in South Africa see Marjorie Hope and James Young, The South African Churches in a Revolutionary Situation, Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1981.

[16] The World Alliance of Reformed Churches General Council meeting on Ottawa, 25 August 1982, endorsed many other previous declarations by national reformed bodies and reiterated ‘its firm conviction that apartheid (“separate development”) is sinful and incompatible with the Gospel’, see ‘Racism and South Africa: Statement adopted by the General Council in Ottawa on 25 August 1982’, II.1, see full statement in John Gruchy and Charles Villa-Vicencio (eds.), Apartheid is a Heresy, Cape Town and Johannesburg: David Philip and Guildford: Lutterworth Press, 1983, pp. 168-73.

[17] On complex ruptures within Christianity in South Africa see John W. De Gruchy, ‘Grappling with a Colonial Heritage: The English-speaking Churches under Imperialism and Apartheid’, in Richard Elphick and Rodney Davenport (eds.), Christianity in South Africa: A Political, Social & Cultural History, Oxford: James Currey Berkeley: University of California Press and Cape Town: David Philip, 1997, pp. 155-72.

[18] John Allen (ed.), Archbishop Desmond Tutu: The Rainbow People of God, p. 26.

[19] ‘We drink water to fill our stomachs: Address to the Provincial Synod of the Church of the province of Southern Africa 1979’, text available in John Allen (ed.), Archbishop Desmond Tutu: The Rainbow People of God, pp. 27-41 at p. 31.

[20] Desmond Tutu, ‘A deep and passionate love for our land: Transcript of remarks to P.W. Botha and members of his cabinet, 1980’, text available in John Allen (ed.), Archbishop Desmond Tutu: The Rainbow People of God, pp. at pp. 43-6 at pp. 44-5.

[21] Desmond Tutu, ‘Why did Mr. Botha’s courage fail him? – Extract from a presentation to a Johannesburg study group, 1981’, text available in John Allen (ed.), Archbishop Desmond Tutu: The Rainbow People of God, pp. 47-52 at p. 50.

[22] Desmond Tutu, ‘The divine imperative, 1982’, text available in John Allen (ed.), Archbishop Desmond Tutu: The Rainbow People of God, pp. 53-78 at p. 58.

[23] Desmond Tutu, ‘Not even invited to the party, 1983’, text available in John Allen (ed.), Archbishop Desmond Tutu: The Rainbow People of God, pp.79-82.

[24] Desmond Tutu, ‘1984 Nobel Lecture’, text available in John Allen (ed.), Archbishop Desmond Tutu: The Rainbow People of God, pp. 84-92 at p. 92.

[25] John Allen (ed.), Archbishop Desmond Tutu: The Rainbow People of God, p. 97.

[26] Desmond Tutu, ‘Punitive Sanctions: Press Statement, 1986’, text available in John Allen (ed.), Archbishop Desmond Tutu: The Rainbow People of God, pp. 102-108 at p. 108.

[27] See John Allen (ed.), Archbishop Desmond Tutu: The Rainbow People of God, p. 110.

[28] Edited parts of Tutu’s sermon available in John Allen (ed.), Archbishop Desmond Tutu: The Rainbow People of God, pp. 110-124, citation at p. 114.

[29] For an excellent overview of churches involved in socio-political issues during this period see Tristan Anne Borer, Challenging the State: Churches as Political Actors in South Africa 1980-1994, Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1998.

[30] See John Allen (ed.), Archbishop Desmond Tutu: The Rainbow People of God, p. 139.

[31] For a general view on the role of Christianity within a post-apartheid and democratic South African society see John W. De Gruchy, Christianity and Democracy: A Theology for a Just World Order, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

[32] See different essays in Robert I. Rotberg and Dennis Thompson (eds.), Truth v. Justice: The Morality of Truth Commissions, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000.

[33] The cutting off dates were from 1960 to 1993, subsequently extended to May 1994, see Deborah Posel and Graeme Simpson, ‘Introduction: The Power of Truth – South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Context’, in Commissioning the Past: Understanding South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 2002, pp. 1-13 at p. 3.


[35] John W. de Gruchy, Reconciliation: Restoring Justice, Cape Town: David Philip, 2002; cf. John Dugard, ‘Dealing with Crimes of a Past Regime: Is Amnesty Still an Option?’, Leiden Journal of International Law 12, 2000/4, pp. 1001-15.

[36] Piers Pigou, ‘False Promises and Wasted Opportunities? Inside South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’, in Deborah Posel and Graeme Simpson, Commissioning the Past: Understanding South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, p. 47.

[37] For the Chilean Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s findings see Report of the Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, 2 volumes, Notre Dame, IN: Center for Civil and Human Rights, Notre Dame Law School and University of Notre Dame Press, 1993.

[38] Desmond Tutu, No Future without Forgiveness, New York: Doubleday, 1999, p. 279.

[39] Graeme Simpson, ‘Tell No Lies, Claim No Easy Victories’: A Brief Evaluation of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’, in Deborah Posel and Graeme Simpson, Commissioning the Past: Understanding South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, p. 247.

[40] Ubuntu has also been used within the pastoral study of trans-cultural counselling in the context of Zambia, see Philip Baxter OFM Cap, ‘From Ubuzungu to Ubuntu: Resources for Pastoral Counselling in a Bantu Context’, Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, Kimmage Mission Institute Dublin, 2006.

[41] Richard A. Wilson, The Politics of Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: Legitimizing the Post-Apartheid State, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 9.

[42] Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness, New York: Doubleday, 1999 and Michael Battle, Reconciliation: The Ubuntu Theology of Desmond Tutu, Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim Press, 1997.

[43] See John Allen (ed.), Archbishop Desmond Tutu: The Rainbow People of God, p. 197.

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