Personality Spotlight;NEWLN:Desmond Tutu: First black Anglican archbishop of Cape Town

Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who Sunday became the first black to lead southern Africa's 2 million Anglicans, is a man people love or hate with a passion.

In the black ghettos, Tutu, the new archbishop of Cape Town, is 'Baba,' or 'father,' and in the churches he is 'Bishop Desmond.' But in many white homes, he is just 'that man.'


The divergent views emerged in a recent street poll. 'Give me a gun and I will shoot him myself,' said white Johannesburg resident Sid Ricklof.

But Sipho Ngubeni, a resident of the black township of Soweto, said 'I fully agree with his views. He has my wholehearted support.'

Dean Edward King, Tutu's senior assistant in his new post, said few South Africans realize Tutu's stature outside South Africa.

'What we are dealing with is a very international figure, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and I think we have been slow to accept this. He walks with kings, to use an old saying, and has a lot of contacts in political, social and showbiz circles,' he said.

Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born a weak and sickly infant Oct. 7, 1931, in a ghetto outside the rural Afrikaner town of Klerksdorp, about 170 miles west of Johannesburg.


His sister, Sylvia Morrison, recalled in an interview that he came so close to dying when he was six months old that his schoolteacher father already had arranged his funeral.

But he overcame his weakness and the handicaps of ghetto poverty to finish school, which still is a rare feat for blacks, and become a teacher himself.

Stan Mutjuwadi, a lifelong friend, recalled last week that he and 'Des' became able gamblers while commuting to school by train.

'We picked up some tricks that made Des and me the best cardsharps on the train. We took on workers commuting with us and we never lost,' he said.

After three years teaching in the state's segregated and inferior black schools, Tutu quit in 1958 to study for the priesthood. After service in Johannesburg, London and a black seminary in South Africa, he was elected Bishop of Lesotho in 1976.

He became an international name, however, when he returned to South Africa to head the South African Council of Churches.

The job as leader of some 13 million Christians gave him a platform from which to oppose the white government's policy of racial segregation known as apartheid.

Harassed and restricted by the government, which repeatedly refused him a passport to travel abroad, Tutu slowly grew to become the best-known opponent of apartheid both inside and outside the country.


The government never acknowledged the Nobel Peace Prize he won in 1984 and it was not until earlier this year that President Pieter Botha finally consented to a private meeting with the diminutive, gray-haired clergyman.

He is the only black leader who has bridged the communication gaps between the Pretoria and Western governments and the black majority in South Africa.

Frequently in the past two years he has rescued black government employees from angry crowds that have burned to death other black 'collaborators.' Weeping openly, he has begged blacks to end violence and to seek a peaceful road to freedom.

Once, after blacks kicked and burned a young woman to death, he told them: 'If you do this thing again, I will pack my bags and gather up my family and leave this country that I love.'

There can be little doubt that Tutu's international prominence has saved him from the detention and imprisonment that has been the fate of some 25,000 anti-government activists in the 18 months.

No other black leader has advocated so loudly a policy of Western economic sanctions against apartheid. Such a call is illegal and others who have backed sanctions have been jailed or forced into hiding.


Tutu refuses to abandon hope for a peaceful solution to his country's problems, but he believes that international intervention 'is our last chance to move away from the brink of disaster.'

'Our land is burning and bleeding ... Blacks are killed, mainly by the security forces, as if they were flies. Children are detained. Children are killed,' he said recently. 'We face a catastrophe in this land and only the action of the international community, by applying economic pressure, can save us.'

On his election in April to become leader of his church in South Africa, Botswana and Lesotho, he told reporters: 'I am overwhelmed and deeply shattered by the responsibility that has been placed on my shoulders by God.'

Tutu married Leah Nomalizo Shinxani in 1955 and they have four children.

His new post moved Tutu from Soweto to Cape Town, where his family will be the first blacks to live in the historic Bishop's Court mansion, the official residence of the country's Anglican leader.

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