President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, has made public congratulatory messages to 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, on his 89th birthday.
Ramaphosa described the archbishop as a “national treasure and global icon of moral consistency, spiritual virtue and the defence of the most vulnerable people”.
In a tweet, President Ramaphosa noted that he too has benefited from the archbishop’s wisdom.
“Today we are united in celebrating the passing of another year in which we have benefited from the Archbishop’s wisdom, the bravery of his conviction in fighting for human rights, the warmth of his love for all South Africans and his care for humanity,” Ramaphosa tweeted.
Archbishop Tutu remains a beloved figure across the world – principally for his role in South Africa’s struggle against apartheid.
Tutu was born in 1931 in Klerksdorp, Transvaal. He was a high school teacher for three years before he began studying theology. He became an ordained priest in 1960 and spent the next few years in England working on his Masters in Theology.
In 1975, he became the first ever black person to be appointed as Dean of St Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg. He was also Bishop of Lesotho, and in 1978 became the first black General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches. Tutu acted as Bishop of Cape Town from 1986-1996, becoming the first black person to lead the Anglican Church of the Province of Southern Africa.
In 1984 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his untiring efforts in calling for an end to white minority rule in South Africa. He became the second black South African to be listed under Nobel Laureates after Albert Luthuli.
He retired from the Church in 1996 to focus solely on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and was later named Archbishop Emeritus. On his last address as the Archbishop of the Province of Southern Africa, he was awarded with The Order for Meritorious Service (Gold) for his outstanding service to the country.
While bestowing the award, then President Nelson Mandela described him as “renowned for selfless commitment to the poor, the oppressed and downtrodden. With his colleagues he remained an effective voice of the people of South Africa when so many of their leaders were imprisoned, exiled, banned and restricted.”
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