Archbishop Desmond Tutu was on 7th September, 1986 enthroned as the first black archbishop of Cape Town and thus became the first black clergyman to head the 2 million-strong Anglican church in South Africa. An outspoken foe of apartheid, Archbishop Tutu served notice in his first address as the church’s new leader that he would not abandon his quest for justice in South Africa — even if it meant condemnation from the white community and its political leaders for “meddling in political affairs.”
Dressed in the full regalia of his new office, Tutu minced no words in condemning apartheid as the country’s primary source of violence. Tutu was also outspoken in defending his advocacy of international sanctions against South Africa as a means of forcing its white rulers to jettison the apartheid system.
While condemning the violence of the outlawed African National Congress and the Pan-Africanist Congress (a militant offshoot of the ANC), the newly installed archbishop told the 2,000 people who crowded into St. George’s Cathdral: “These organizations only opted for armed struggle when the government banned them in 1960 after Sharpeville [when 67 blacks were gunned down by police]. The primary violence in South Africa is the violence of apartheid.”
Tutu’s remarks on sanctions drew applause from a section of the racially mixed congregation that included Winnie Mandela, wife of the jailed ANC leader, Nelson Mandela, and Coretta Scott King, widow of the slain American civil-rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr.
“The onus must be on those who say no to sanctions to provide us with a viable nonviolent strategy to force the dismantling of apartheid,” Tutu said.
To those whites who protested that sanctions would hurt blacks more than whites, the archbishop said: “Please spare us your new-found altruism. Where was your concern when blacks received an inferior education, when black family life was deliberately destroyed by the migratory labor system? Why did you not utter a squeak about their real, actual suffering?”
But Tutu, who has consistently preached a message of racial reconciliation, was careful to stress that not all whites were either indifferent to black suffering or falsely concerned when it offered a shield against sanctions. He mentioned specifically the Black Sash, a white women’s civil-rights organization, and the End Conscription Campaign, a white movement against compulsory military service.
Confounding expectations from conservative quarters, Tutu did include President Pieter W. Botha in his prayer, adding: “Whether I like it or not, whether he likes it or not, P. W. Botha is my brother, and I must desire and pray for the best for him.”
Church leaders came from as far away as Japan and Britain to attend the colorful enthronement service at St. George’s, which has housed several strong-minded church leaders critical of government policy. Ironically, the cathedral lies adjacent to Parliament, where South Africa’s racial laws have been forged and refined for decades.
Later yesterday more than 10,000 Christians gathered to celebrate a mass outdoor communion service on the outskirts of Cape Town. Tutu presided over the service. The congregation there was a microcsm of South Africa, with the predominance of black and brown faces broken occasionally by whites. As the choirs sang joyously and the people surged forward to the podium to take communion, the image that came to mind was that of a new South Africa, reconciled by the church. Several of the languages spoken in South Africa — including Afrikaans, the language of the country’s rulers, and that of the deprived Colored community (those of mixed-race) — were used during the service.
Outside the venue for the service, however, conservative white Christians handed out pamphlets that juxtaposed quotes from speeches by Tutu with extracts from the Bible in an attempt to expose the newly enthroned Anglican church leader as a false prophet.
The sermon for the communion service was delivered by Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury and world leader of the Anglican church. He described Tutu as a “man of love, vision, and peace whose valiant stand for Christ has brought such life and hope to South Africa.”
Dr. Runcie quoted with approval the words of jailed ANC leader Mandela: “Christ is the inspiration of those of all races who have fought, in the words of Nelson Mandela, `against white domination and against black domination and who have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society, a happy place for all peoples.’ ” This report was filed under South Africa’s emergency regulations, which prohibit reporters from being “within sight”’ of any unrest, any “restricted gathering, or any “police actions;”’ from reporting on arrests made under the emergency regulations; and from relaying information deemed subversive.