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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Tutu, Desmond Mpilo

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Archbishop Desmond Tutu was born in 1931 in Klerksdorp, Transvaal. His father was a teacher, and he was educated at Johannesburg Bantu High School. After leaving school he trained first as a teacher at Pretoria Bantu Normal College and in 1954 he graduated from the University of South Africa. After three years as a high school teacher he began to study theology, being ordained as a priest in 1961. The years 1962 to 1966 were devoted to further theological study in England leading up to a Master of Theology.

From 1967 to 1972 he taught theology in South Africa before returning to England for three years as the assistant director of the World Council of Church's Theological Education Fund. In 1975 he was appointed Dean of St. Mary's Cathedral in Johannesburg, the first black person to hold that position. From 1976 to 1978 he was Bishop of Lesotho, and in 1978 became the first black General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC). Tutu is an honorary doctor of a number of leading universities in the USA, Britain and Germany.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

In 1986 Tutu was elected Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town. Desmond Tutu formulated his objective as "a democratic and just society without racial divisions", and played a big role as an advocator of peace processes whilst still lobbying for change in South Africa both inside and outside of the country.

One of his most significant contributions was after the 1994 democratic elections when he was selected as head commissioner of the Truth and Reconcilation Commission (TRC) and it was especially during this time that he was able to bring about a spirit of true reconciliation between South Africans across the racial divide.

He is married to Leah Nomalizo Shenxane and the couple have four children.

Source: Les Prix Nobel/Nobel Lectures

Gastrow, S. 1995. Who's Who in South African Politics, Number 5. Ravan Press: Johannesburg.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.