Home News New biography captures Tutu’s struggles

New biography captures Tutu’s struggles

Published on 02/10/2011

Desmond Tutu is now seen as South Africa's moral compass, but in the 1980s he was reviled by the whites' government and criticised within the liberation movement, a new biography said Sunday.

Excerpts from “Tutu: The Authorised Portrait” published in The Sunday Independent captured some of his most difficult moments in the 1980s at the forefront of the fight against the segregationist government.

His support for international sanctions on the regime drew outrage from the authorities, who retaliated by bombing the building housing the South African Council of Churches in downtown Johannesburg.

The night-time blast in August 1988 destroyed Khotso House, meaning “House of Peace”, but caused no injuries.

Tutu was also the target of death threats and a smear campaign, in which apartheid security forces hanged a monkey foetus outside his home, in an attempt to convince township residents that he was under a witch’s spell, the book said.

His support for sanctions also divided his own Anglican Church, where he served as archbishop of Cape Town, and his white liberal supporters including Alan Paton, author of “Cry, The Beloved Country” and leader of the anti-apartheid Liberal Party.

“I do not understand how your Christian conscience allows you to advocate disinvestment,” Paton wrote to Tutu, according to the book. “It would go against my deepest principles to advocate anything that could put a man, and especially a black man, out of a job.”

Tutu replied to such criticism that the suffering caused by sanctions would be short-lived, while the suffering caused by apartheid looked like it would “go on and on and on.”

The book also looks at Tutu’s own struggles in coming to terms with the violent struggle against apartheid.

“The whole thrust of his prophetic ministry was to campaign and plead for the abandonment of apartheid so as to avoid the racial bloodbath he believed would otherwise engulf his beloved South Africa,” one excerpt read.

Written by his daughter Mpho Tutu and journalist Allister Sparks, the book goes on sale Monday, followed by a formal launch Thursday, the eve of his 80th birthday.