African leadership award to Tutu for global activism

12 December 2011
Activist and patron: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu will receive a special leadership award from UCT this week.
Activist and patron: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu will receive a special leadership award from UCT this week.

It took UCT seven years to award the second Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Leadership in Africa - a reminder not only of the prestige of the accolade, but also of how few and far between worthy recipients have been.

When the honour is conferred on Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu at a graduation ceremony on 13 December, he will be the first awardee since former president Thabo Mbeki received the award in 2004.

The award, a replica in bronze of one of seven ceramic heads dating from the ninth century, is made to individuals who have made contributions to Africa through sustained and visionary leadership.

Tutu fits the bill well.

Described by former President Nelson Mandela as "sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid and seldom without humour", Tutu has been a spokesperson against international social ills, such as civil wars, corruption, non-democratic governments, poverty, HIV/AIDS and TB, human-rights abuses ? the list goes on.

Tutu's straightforward talk has angered some. The Congress of South African Students once condemned him as a "loose cannon" and a "scandalous man", while some members of the American Psychiatric Association refused to attend the group's annual meeting in protest at Tutu's attendance as speaker, because of the retired bishop's alleged anti-Semitic statements.

The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate also has numerous associations with UCT.

A regular visitor to the campus, he is also the benefactor behind the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, established in 2004. With an experienced and dedicated team of over 165 doctors, nurses, researchers and community-trained field workers, the centre has become a wellspring of knowledge and expertise for medical practitioners, offers support for people seeking testing or treatment, and takes the lead in preventative education.

In 2010 UCT's Marine Research Institute part-named its Nansen-Tutu Centre for Marine Environmental Research after him, recognising his concern for environmental and climate change issues.

UCT presented Tutu with an honorary doctorate in law in 1993.

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“Archbishop Emeritus Tutu, as he graciously aged, never lost his vision for a just and free South Africa.”
– Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane

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