Desmond Tutu, anti-apartheid leader and 'moral compass' dies aged 90

By Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

Above: Archbishop Desmond Tutu  Source / DFAT

A world leader and a friend of Aotearoa, anti-apartheid leader Desmond Tutu is mourned across Africa and the world. A Nobel Peace Prize winner and a pillar for racial justice and LGBT rights, has passed away at 90 years of age. A mentor to some of the world's greatest leaders and a friend to many. 

The Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa said "He was the moral conscience of the country and sometimes highly critical of South Africa’s ANC-led government saying that some in the ANC leadership had stopped the apartheid gravy train 'just long enough to jump on"

He stood up for minorities and for equal opportunities for all a man who is said will be the inspiration of generations. He was South Africa's first black archbishop 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, "Archbishop Tutu was a towering global figure for peace and an inspiration to generations across the world. During the darkest days of apartheid, he was a shining beacon for social justice, freedom and non-violent resistance. ... Although Archbishop Tutu's passing leaves a huge void on the global stage, and in our hearts, we will be forever inspired by his example to continue the fight for a better world for all." 

Former US President Barrack Obama paid tribute to the 'universal spirit' saying "Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a mentor, a friend, and a moral compass for me and so many others. A universal spirit, Archbishop Tutu was grounded in the struggle for liberation and justice in his own country, but also concerned with injustice everywhere. He never lost his impish sense of humour and willingness to find humanity in his adversaries, and Michelle and I will miss him dearly."

A friend of Aotearoa

The man who stood for human rights and against racist rhetoric, Tutu was regarded as whānau to many in Aotearoa. Tutu faced court action in South Africa when a delegation of religious leaders from Aotearoa went to South Africa in support of Tutu. When New Zealanders joined in the anti-apartheid movement in 1981 one of the protest groups was named in his honored, fitting called the Tutu Squad. 

He was a witness in a trial that come out from the Springbok tour protest and stood as an expert witness. 

An inspiration 

Along with his words of wisdom were actions of compassion and kindness. One of his many quotes may be the manual for a better world, "Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world."

And while he held himself to a high standard, according to one of his famous quotes those of us who may be still working on ourselves may still see him again one day. "We may be surprised at the people we find in heaven. God has a soft spot for sinners. His standards are quite low."