Bishop Desmond Tutu is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo

Desmond Tutu receiving the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize from the Nobel committee chairman, Egil Aarvik Image source

Monday, 10 December 1984

Archbishop Mpilo Desmond Tutu, world renowned preacher and strident voice against apartheid, first Black Secretary General of the South African Council of Churches, first Black Archbishop of the Anglican Church in South Africa, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, and chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The award ceremony was held in Oslo on 10 December 1984 and was delayed for twenty minutes because of a bomb threat. The award recognised his unifying role in the fight against apartheid. The Nobel Peace Prize Committee made specific mention of his part in the transition to democracy in South Africa. Despite sustained government harassment he was a staunch advocate of reconciliation between Blacks and Whites. Notwithstanding this significant award and congratulatory messages from governments across the globe, it was never celebrated by the South African government. This award pressured President P. W. Botha's regime by its recognition of a visionary in the South African liberation struggle. Instead, Botha called Tutu a political preacher, undeserving of the award.

In his acceptance speech, Desmond Tutu acknowledged that the South African Council of Churches understood the decision by the African National Congress (ANC) and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) to resort to violence as a last resort. However, he added, violence was not introduced into South Africa by the ANC and PAC, but by the Apartheid regime.

He said that:

"There is no peace in Southern Africa. There is no peace because there is no justice. There can be no real peace and security until there be first justice enjoyed by all the inhabitants of that beautiful land. The Bible knows nothing about peace without justice, for that would be crying, 'Peace, peace, where there is no peace'." God's shalom peace involves inevitably righteousness, justice, wholeness, fullness of life, participation in decision making, goodness, laughter, joy, compassion, sharing and reconciliation." (Click here to read his full acceptance speech)

At the time, Tutu joined Chief Albert Luthuli, also a persistent critic of apartheid, as South Africa's second Nobel Peace Prize laureate. One of Tutu's earliest acts against apartheid was when he quitted his teaching post in protest against the Bantu Education Act of 1953 designed to drastically reduce the education standards of Black South Africans.

References:
• Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau.
•  SAHA Tutu and the Nobel Peace Prize [online] Available at: www.sthp.saha.org.za [Accessed on 28 November 2013]

Last updated : 23-Jun-2016

This article was produced by South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011

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