News / Africa

South Africa’s Desmond Tutu Marks 80th Birthday

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu looks on during his autobiographical book launch in Cape Town, October 6, 2011.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu looks on during his autobiographical book launch in Cape Town, October 6, 2011.
Delia Robertson

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is celebrating his 80th birthday in Cape Town with a series of events that began Thursday.  Now included in the schedule is a conversation between the Dalai Lama and the archbishop via video link.

Birthday wishes are pouring in from across South Africa and the globe for Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu as he marks his 80th birthday Friday.  People called radio stations and flooded social media sites with messages of support and affection.

The milestone is being celebrated with events over three days, culminating Saturday with the inaugural address of the Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture.

The Tibetan spiritual leader had been slated to deliver the address but was forced to cancel his trip when the South African government did not respond to his visa application.  Many have described their silence as a constructive denial of the visa.  In a video message posted on his website and circulated by social networking sites, the Dalai Lama said the archbishop is a unique person.

“Unfortunately it is quite rare on this planet, such like you who really carry hope,“ he said.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe later said the government would grant the visa, but when pressed Thursday to do so immediately, his office said he does not make decisions about visas.

Earlier this week, Tutu singled out President Jacob Zuma in a passionate public condemnation of the government’s handling of the application, saying it was discourteous and disgraceful.

“Hey Mr Zuma, you and your government don’t represent me," he said.  "You represent your own interests.  And I am warning you, I really am warning you, out of love.  I am warning you like I warned the [National Party], one day we will start praying for the defeat of the ANC government.”

Mr Zuma has not attended any of Tutu’s birthday events, but did issue a congratulatory press statement saying, “we respect him, love him and always welcome his counsel on issues.”

Tutu started his professional life as a teacher and became a priest at 30.  He became an increasingly outspoken critic of the apartheid government following the Soweto student uprising of 1976, and was subjected to frequent harassment by the police and his passport was cancelled.  But this did not silence him and in 1984 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  But Tutu told guests in Cape Town this week he did not stand alone - he said he had the support of his fellow citizens and of the international community.

“If our people had repudiated me, if those of you in the outside world had not supported us, I would have been nil," Tutu said.  "And so you are as much a part of these celebrations in a very real organic way, and I wish I could open my heart and you had the medical skills, that would be able to say ahh, ja, there we see.  I just want to say, thank you.”

After the end of apartheid in 1994, then President Nelson Mandela asked the archbishop to head up the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established to deal with the gross human rights violations of the apartheid era.

But even after the advent of democracy the Arch, as he is fondly known by South Africans, continued to speak out against what he saw as the excesses or failures of the African National Congress led government. His outspoken honesty continues to irk those in power or who are privileged, but endears him to ordinary people.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid