On March 15, 1984, thirty-seven hours before the hanging of the Sharpville 6, five men and a woman, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the fearsome anti-Apartheid fighter had sought an audience with brutish Pieta Botha for clemency.
At the office of this self-confessed evil man, Botha, anger boiled over and Desmond Mpilo Tutu accepted to die than be rubbished by Botha.
As he walked away from Botha’s office that day, he had made renown as the only man, black or white, that talked back and wagged his finger in Botha’s face and remained alive to tell the story.
Botha, the man of blood was shocked by the raw courage and boldness of Tutu right in his office when he replied to him in a double dose of his dare and rudeness.
After laying his case for the pardon of these people that the hangmen had measured the circumference of their necks, their heights and weights to prepare a fitting guillotine for their hanging, Tutu decided to seek an audience with Botha.
Before he could make any impact, Botha snapped back in his bloody crudity. But Tutu would not take that.
From the mouth of the bold cleric thundered these words in reply shaking a finger in the face of Botha: “Look here, I am not a small boy. Don’t think you are talking to a small boy. I am not here as if you are my principal… I thought I was talking to a civilized person and there are courtesies involved.”
It became so heated an encounter that the two tore at each other with words and Tutu never accepted to hold the shorter end of the cudgel. He actually frightened Botha and for the first time, a black person did, even right in his office. The people watching could not believe what they saw or heard.
The following day, March 16, Monday, as the appeal hearing for Sharpeville 6 resumed, the judge was like a different person. At the end, the matter instead of a final decision for the execution was referred back to bloody Botha.
The outcome eventually was Botha commuting the death sentence to long jail terms.
This is just an inkling of Mpilo Tutu, the lion whose name, Mpilo means Peace. In his authorised biography, he was called the Rabble-Rouser for Peace, little wonder he won the Nobel Laureate for Peace in 1984.
Tutu fought fierce wars and won in all of them, lived a long life after clocking 90 on October 7.
The great Tutu died in Cape Town in his home on December 26.
In his tribute to this hero of humanity, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called him “a patriot without equal.”
“A man of extraordinary intellect, integrity, and invincibility against the forces of apartheid, he was also tender and vulnerable in his compassion for those who had suffered oppression, injustice, and violence under apartheid, and oppressed and downtrodden people around the world.”
Archbishop Tutu made history during his lifetime as the first black man to serve as the Bishop of Johannesburg (1985-1986) and then the Archbishop of Cape Town (1986-1996).
Tutu was globally known for his anti-apartheid works which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.
Here lies the great warrior for humanity in somnolent quietude.
Here lies Tutu, the pride of the Black race, the man of peace, the humanist, the roaring lion, the irrepressible warrior.
I don’t wail you. I celebrate and wish my race would have more Tutus.
Goodnight Uncle Tutu