CAPE TOWN, Oct. 7 (Reuters) – Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner and veteran of South Africa’s fight against the white minority regime, turned 90 on Thursday, celebrating his birthday with a discreet religious service at Saint George’s Cathedral in Cape Town.
Tutu, who has struggled with ill health in recent years, is often hailed as South Africa’s moral conscience and the great reconciler of a nation divided by decades of racist politics. He attended the service where he was the country’s first black Anglican Archbishop, wearing a dark suit.
In 1984, Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent opposition to apartheid. A decade later, he witnessed the end of this regime and he chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up to unearth the atrocities committed during those dark days.
“Their plans have failed miserably,” Tutu’s friend Reverend Allan Boesak said, delivering a speech from the pulpit. “You told them that this government is bad and that this government will bite the dust very soon. You did it all, Desmond Tutu.
Tutu has led numerous marches and campaigns to end apartheid from the front steps of St George, and as a result, it has come to be known as the “People’s Cathedral” and a powerful symbol of democracy, according to the local government. .
Tutu was a longtime friend of Nelson Mandela and lived for a time on the same street in the South African township of Soweto, Vilakazi Street, the only one in the world to host two Nobel Peace Prize laureates.
“His most characteristic quality is his willingness to take unpopular positions without fear,” Mandela said of him. “Such independence of mind is vital for a thriving democracy.”
Reporting by Emma Rumney and Shafiek Tassiem Editing by Tim Cocks and Susan Fenton
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.