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Desmond Tutu's Biography

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Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born on 7 October 1931 in Klerksdorp, Transvaal.

He received his Higher Teachers Diploma in 1953 and the following year he gained a BA from the University of South Africa.

In 1955 Desmond Tutu married Leah Nomalizo Shenxane.

From 1958 to 1960 Tutu went to theological college. In 1960, he became deacon and then in 1961 priest of St Mary's College in Johannesburg.

Tutu held many positions in the Church including for much of the sixties and early seventies in England. Amongst his influences was the white opponent of apartheid, Bishop Trevor Huddleston.

Desmond Tutu became the first black Anglican Dean of Johannesburg in 1975.

In the ensuing years he became a prominent figure as a reformer and opponent of apartheid leading to the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

Desmond Tutu was elected Archbishop of Cape Town in 1986, and became the first black head of the Anglican Church in South Africa.

Archbishop Tutu held this crucial position during the period of reform undertaken by President De Klerk after he took office in 1989 including the release of Nelson Mandela.

After Mandela became President, he selected Archbishop Tutu to chair South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

When the Commission reported it had a mixed reception - some people criticised it of being too cautious in its judgements, for example, of Winnie Mandela.

In recent years Desmond Tutu has not always steered clear of controversy.

In December 2004, Archbishop Tutu gave a speech, saying that black empowerment was benefiting an elite, and that 'kowtowing' within the African National Congress (ANC) was hindering democracy.

President Mbeki did not react well to the criticism, declaring:

"It would be good if those that present themselves as the greatest defenders of the poor should also demonstrate decent respect for the truth."

The row escalated when Tutu thanked Mbeki for calling him a liar, and, in a stinging barb, said that he would pray for the ANC government as he had done for its apartheid predecessor.

In October 2008 Desmond Tutu was so unhappy with the ANC that he told South Africa's Sunday Times if an election were to be held tomorrow, he would be sufficiently unhappy not to vote.

In December 2008, Archbishop Desmond Tutu told the BBC that using force should be an option to get rid of Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe.

In February 2010, The Independent reported that Archbishop Tutu has allowed scientists to decode his entire genetic make-up and to post it on the internet with those of three other southern Africans belonging to the Kalahari Desert Bushmen, or San people.

In October 2010, the BBC reported that Archbishop Desmond Tutu was stepping down from public life, to spend more time with his family and to watch more cricket.

He died in December 2021, aged 90.

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