• The making of Desmond Tutu

    From Steve Hayes@21:1/5 to All on Tue Oct 8 12:24:19 2019
    XPost: alt.religion.christian.episcopal, alt.christian.religion, alt.religion.christianity
    XPost: alt.politics.religion, alt.religion.christian

    The making of Desmond Tutu

    Sunday Independent / 27 September 2015, 10:13am / Tinyiko Maluleke

    Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutus personality and character were
    fashioned by a spirituality forged at the intersection of the beliefs
    of the African Independent churches, mainline Christianity, the simple
    faith of his mother, the work ethic of his father, the African
    philosophy of ubuntu and the lived experience of apartheid brutality,
    says the writer. File photo: Bheki Radebe

    The young Tutu was immersed, not by choice, in the dreadful lot of the
    pariah people he was born of, writes Tinyiko Maluleke.

    Johannesburg - In 2006 a bunch of primary school kids from Fellview
    Primary in Wigton, UK, penned a letter to Anglican Archbishop Emeritus
    Desmond Tutu – personally signed by each one of them.

    Intended to thank him for his work in promoting peace in Ireland, the
    kids also took occasion to tell Tutu that they thought he was a kind,
    generous, and honest man – pretty accurate, kind and incisive, coming
    from the proverbial mouths of babes.

    South Africans could learn from the children of Fellview Primary to
    appreciate and know Tutu better. They also surmised that he must have
    had a happy childhood.

    On this particular point, I would beg to differ with the children of

    What Tutu had was a difficult if also eventful childhood, but I would
    never call it happy.

    Except perhaps in the Pharrell Williams sense of being happy “like a
    room without a roof” – the kind of happiness which persists even when
    there “come(s) bad news talking this and that”.

    Maybe the kids were supposing that as a child, Tutu had the attitude
    expressed in the Bobby Macferrin song, “Don’t worry, be happy”.

    For in the world of Macferrin’s imagination, one chooses to be happy
    and not to worry even though one has plenty to worry about and little
    to be happy about.

    And yet the Macferrin injunction and choice must be neither
    oversimplified nor romanticised.

    Certainly not in the case of Tutu.

    On October 7, Tutu will turn 84.

    He was born in a place called Makoeteng – meaning the broken remnants
    and remains of what used to be mud houses – outside Klerksdorp, to
    Zacharia Zelilo “ZZ” Tutu and Aletta Dorothea Mavoertsek neé Matlhare.

    Razed when the people of the location were moved by the apartheid
    regime for being too close to a white area, the Makoeteng of Tutu’s
    infancy is no more.

    In its place was established a suburb called Neserhof.

    For more reasons than the destruction of Makoeteng, Tutu was raised
    from the “resilient remnants” of the black South Africans who,
    according to Sol Plaatjie, woke up on Friday morning, June 20, 1913
    and found themselves “not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land
    of his birth”.

    Around the time of Tutu’s birth, Klerksdorp’s black residents showed
    up in white newspapers as “robbers”, “tax dodgers”, undocumented vagrants, “employment deserters”, “fowl thieves” and “shop burglars”.

    These criminalised people who scraped a living on the fringes of a
    white world gave us Desmond Tutu.

    Not far from Klerksdorp, there is an Afrikaner memorial to 149 adults
    and 968 children who died in a British concentration camp during the
    Anglo-Boer War.

    Research has since revealed that, although unnoticed and long
    unremarked by historians, 14 000 black people also died in the war.

    Is Tutu a remnant also of the victims of this war?

    I think so.

    He is the offshoot of anti-colonial Xhosa chiefs Ndlambe and Ngqika.
    In him live the spirits of Kimpa Vita, Nongqawuse, Nxele, Ntsikana and
    Tiyo Soga, famous anti-colonial prophetesses and prophets.

    He is a seedling of Enoch Mgijima, Mpambani Mzimba, and Engenas
    Lekganyane – church leaders who sought African self-determination and independence, even in matters of the spirit and belief.

    The young Tutu was immersed, not by choice, in the dreadful lot of the
    pariah people he was born of.

    Between forced removals and in the search for a livelihood his family
    moved, with the young Tutu, from Moakoeteng, to Munsieville, to
    Tshing, to Roodepoort and to the Sophiatown environs.

    Nor were the Tutus saved from the ravages of the diseases and
    implications of the man-made poverty that afflicted the darker peoples
    during the apartheid years.

    According to one of his biographers, the young Tutu “was once accosted
    by a police officer who suspected he was homeless or a beggar”.

    To make extra money, Tutu and a friend, Stan Motjuwadi – who was to
    become a famed Drum journalist – sold fruit and caddied for white
    golfers at the Killarney golf course in Joburg.

    Two of Tutu’s brothers, Sipho and Thamsanqa, died in childhood and
    infancy. Desmond had to watch his father officiate at the funeral of

    Of the five children born to his parents, only three survived.

    One winter morning, in Klerksdorp, the brazier fire – the best and
    only way black families could warm themselves during winter – caught
    Tutu’s flannel pyjamas, resulting in serious burns.

    Polio and tuberculosis had their turn with young Tutu’s frail frame.

    Tutu writes with his left hand because of the damage done by polio to
    his right hand.

    For nearly two years the young Tutu was in the Rietfontein Hospital,
    battling TB, and he was sure the end was nigh.

    “Well, God, if I’m going to die, it’s okay. And if not, that’s okay too,” he prayed.

    That was the context in which he met his great friend and role model
    Trevor Huddleston, who cared for Tutu as if he was his own child and

    Most Tutu students concur in recognising his parents as his most
    influential teachers and role models.

    His mother, Aletta Dorothea Mavoertsek Matlhare, taught the young
    Desmond all he needed to know and experience about compassion,
    self-sacrifice and humanitarianism.

    A domestic worker, Mavoertsek would often ask for an advance from her
    white employers so she could pay for Tutu’s train ticket to school.

    Tutu’s father, a descendant of the amaMfengu, was a proud Xhosa man
    and a strict parent who deeply loved his children.

    To supplement his measly teacher’s salary, ZZ took to fishing and
    wedding photography, among other pursuits, at weekends – for which he
    was often paid with eggs, chickens, or even pigs.

    As Tutu has noted several times, ZZ was no perfect husband. There was
    a pugnacious side, due to his occasional binge drinking. Desmond’s
    mother bore the brunt of that.

    There were other people and other influences in Tutu’s life. The
    eZenzeleni school for blind black women in Roodepoort, where
    Mavoertsek worked as a cook, made a profound impression on Tutu.

    Once while visiting there Tutu saw a white cleric, who he thought was Huddleston, doff a hat to his mother, something that was unheard of in
    those days.

    This left an indelible impression on Tutu.

    Perhaps this occasion was for him the earliest sign of a rainbow
    nation, a hint at the possibility of a non-racial future?

    And yet the relationship between Tutu, the church and the priesthood
    was not one of love at first sight.

    In fact the priesthood was not even Tutu’s second love.

    He wanted to be a doctor and gained admission to medical school at
    Wits University, only to be financially excluded later.

    He then trained as a teacher at the Bantu Normal College in Pretoria.
    Fellow stuidents included Stanley Mogoba, who was to be imprisoned on
    Robben Island and become a cleric, as well as legendary columnist
    Casey “Kid” Motsisi.

    For a short while Desmond worked as a teacher – as a good English
    teacher, if the testimony by Joe Seremane, one of his students, is
    anything to go by.

    Tutu was hurled towards the priesthood by the snowballing experiences
    of apartheid deprivation and a keen awareness that as a teacher, he
    could be what apartheid architect Hendrik Verwoerd had determined for

    “I am not going to be a collaborator in this nefarious scheme,” Tutu
    said to himself as he swopped the classroom for the seminary.

    The young Tutu had deep and varied experiences of the church.

    He was born and baptised a Methodist, and his paternal grandfather,
    Solomon Tutu, was a minister in an African initiated church.

    Tutu also had an uncle who, apart from being a township cobbler, was a
    priest in an African Independent Church.

    His uncle often went about preaching in the township, with the young, banner-carrying Tutu leading the charge.

    The Tutu family migrated from African initiated churches to Methodism,
    to the African Methodist Episcopal Church and later to the Anglican

    Tutu’s personality and character were fashioned by a spirituality
    forged at the intersection of the beliefs of the African Independent
    churches, mainline Christianity, the simple faith of Mavoertsek, the
    work ethic of his father, the African philosophy of ubuntu and the
    lived experience of apartheid brutality.

    His overall style and mannersisms bear the influence of the “happy”
    music of Sophiatown.

    It is astounding that one whose ministry coincided with so dark a
    period in the history of South Africa and the world would also be
    renowned for his love and advocacy of laughter.

    His sermons are a total performance, not an academic reading of a

    American ethicist and theologian Stanley Hauerwas once said: “Desmond
    Tutu is not a theologian, he is better.”

    * Tinyiko Maluleke is a professor at the University of Pretoria. He
    writes in his personal capacity. Follow him on Twitter @ProfTinyiko

    Source: https://t.co/AtXXmQjyAg?amp=1

    Steve Hayes from Tshwane, South Africa
    Web: http://www.khanya.org.za/stevesig.htm
    Blog: http://khanya.wordpress.com

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