Home News Le tre quickly by Desmond Tutu – Pierre Haski

Le tre quickly by Desmond Tutu – Pierre Haski

by admin

December 27, 2021 09:11 am

Desmond Tutu lived three lives: the liberator, the reconciler, the moral compass. Three lives of struggle and faith, closely interconnected, rewarded with the defeat of the abominable apartheid system but disappointed by the inconstancy of Nelson Mandela’s successors.

As a correspondent for the France-Presse agency in Johannesburg, I witnessed Tutu’s early life in the mid-1970s when he emerged as a spokesperson for those who had no voice while the leaders of the black majority were in prison or exile. On Sundays I went to listen to him in the Regina Mundi church in Soweto, the immense black slum of Johannesburg, where he inflamed the crowds. Outside the church it was full of police tanks, with the agents nervous of gatherings that were nevertheless difficult to ban in a country that claimed to be Christian.

Tutu used his biting humor as a weapon, spreading a biblical word that contrasted with all those within the white power who justified apartheid in the name of the Christian faith. Above all, it conveyed hope, and in the darkest period of apartheid one had to be very persuasive to dare to cultivate the dream of freedom for blacks, as Martin Luther King had done in the past.

Tutu was also a moral compass. Despite having participated in the fight against apartheid, to the point of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 and subsequently creating the Commission of Truth and Reconciliation, he never sacrificed his freedom of thought to political commitment.

Both before and after apartheid, Tutu was never complacent with his friends. When the townships plunged into violence in the 1980s, Tutu intervened to prevent the lynching of those whom the crowd regarded as collaborators of the regime. “Don’t behave like them”, he admonished, risking his safety.

But it is above all after the only mandate of his friend Nelson Mandela that Tutu became the moral point of reference that South Africa needed, denouncing all the drifts of the successors of “Madiba” starting with the corruption and nepotism of the former liberators who they believed themselves in the right to do whatever they wanted in the name of past sacrifices.

The great disappointment of his life was undoubtedly that of seeing the hope of a “rainbow nation” (an expression of his) undermined by the same people he had accompanied to power.

Tutu had gone so far as to publicly announce that he would no longer vote for the African national congress, Mandela’s ANC, when Jacob Zuma, president at the time, began systematically raiding the country. Zuma, who today faces prison for corruption, ended up ruining the legacy of the liberation struggle that promised a better future.


When Mandela died in 2013, it was Desmond Tutu’s turn to conclude the official tribute in the great stadium of Johannesburg, the seal of his undisputed moral authority. On that occasion, the retired archbishop had imposed total silence on the crowd, making them promise “before God” to remain faithful “to the example of Mandela”.

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Today we can talk about the example of Mandela and Tutu, but unfortunately South Africa, while mourning its heroes, struggles to live up to it.

(Translation by Andrea Sparacino)


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