Where are the Tutu’s of our Time?

Johannesburg- South Africa is mourning the loss of Desmond Tutu, who has played a pivotal role in the new South Africa.

Tutu passed away in his home at the age of 90. Tributes are pouring in for the Archbishop.

“I wish I could shut up, but I can’t, and I won’t.” This is one of the many thought-provoking quotes that Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu pronounced in his many confrontations with social injustice, poor leadership and poverty.

Though pint-sized and diminutive, the Arch was an extraordinary, boisterous and fearless personality who did not allow the political rank, social class or economic status of wrong-doers to silence him. Neither did he allow the walls of the church to confine him nor did he hide behind the pulpit or Bible to avoid confronting the unspoken and taboo topics.

He called things what they were and called out those who had no respect for human dignity and integrity. Today, South Africa is one fearless voice poorer and sadly they are not that many courageous voices to run with Arch’s vision.

An equally influential man of the cloth, Martin Luther King Jr once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

The Arch took these words seriously as the narrative of his life was centred on calling to order those that perpetrated social injustice and those that lacked integrity.

He never grew tired of speaking up on things that matter. The passing of the Arch serves as a reminder to us that the lack of courage to speak up will be our biggest downfall. We must speak up and the time to do so is now.

Religious leaders should not be hoodwinked into thinking that hiding in churches is sticking to their lane. The Arch has left us with a perfect example that working within the comfort zone of church walls will not do anything to bring justice for the vulnerable, alleviate poverty for our people, or address corruption. Instead, it fuels unaccountability, complacency and passivity in our society. Many are comfortable to take a back seat and watch the entire nation crumble to pieces, but that goes against the principles that the life of Archbishop Tutu have taught us.

This religious stalwart has left the present-day church and the entire nation with a huge challenge and we cannot drop the baton and undo the massive wins that we have gained through his hard work.

We need to preserve the legacy of the Arch and even exceed the bar he has set given the challenges that we face. It was one thing for the Arch to fight the Apartheid regime, but it’s another to challenge corrupt leaders who themselves are beneficiaries of the hard-won freedom that Archbishop Tutu and others fought for.

It is inconceivable that during a time of the COVID-19 crisis, there are people in leadership positions who are still looking for ways to benefit individually and rob their citizens through corrupt means. This is a time of reckoning.


It calls for citizens that are bold and devoted to this country to stand up and say something; it is time for all of us to awaken the spirit of Tutu in us.

Our government and political leaders have done so much harm and damage which, much to his disappointment, the Arch lived to see. And in true Tutu style, he did not shut up but did “warn” them and he did so “with love.” It saddened him to see the hard-won freedom slowly slipping away into the prison of social injustice, human indignity and corruption as a result of bad governance.

Now that the moral compass and voice of reason for South Africa is no more, this should not be a license for our leaders to do as they please. It is a time of reflection and seeking ways to do better as people who have been entrusted with the lives of the citizens of this country, do so with responsibility and carry the legacy of our founding fathers forward.

The passing of Archbishop Tutu surely feels like that moment when the last elder of a family departs.

The family feels vulnerable as they wonder how it will deal with family delinquents, address generational crises and solve family conflicts. If each of us commits to not turn a blind eye to corruption, injustice and hold our leaders to account we will be better able to carry the work of the Arch forward.

If we make it commonplace to speak up and challenge the status quo, then Archbishop Desmond Tutu will not disappear into history but multiply into the future. We are the Tutu’s of our time. Lala Ngoxolo Tata Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu.

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Also read :Look: World leaders remember Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Tribute by Rev Chris Mathebula

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