Arch Tutu to cut back on public life due to ill health

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Concerns mounted over the health of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu yesterday, after he couldn’t complete his weekly morning church service, and was also not well enough to hand out gifts as planned at Tygerberg Children’s Hospital.

The 84-year-old Struggle icon’s health has been monitored closely in recent months, after he spent nearly two weeks in hospital at the end of August, being treated for a persistent infection.

Tutu has been battling prostate cancer for years.

Yesterday his daughter Mpho Tutu said her father would steadily reduce his public appearances due to ill health.


Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu (left), the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, yesterday visited mothers and their premature babies at the Tygerberg Children’s Hospital. With Tutu are Sophia Hendriks from Stellenbosch and her baby boy Cayden. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

The Arch, as Tutu is affectionately known, was to have joined her at the Tygerberg Children’s Hospital yesterday.

Mpho Tutu, executive director of the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, was instead alone as she handed over a cheque for R15,000 to the hospital’s unit caring for mothers and their premature babies.

She said the foundation had raised the money at a recent charity auction. Her father was to have attended, but was instead “taking a break”.

“He’s not feeling on top of the world. He’s had a couple of days of really not feeling like himself,” said Mpho Tutu.

She added that Tutu had battled after his recent hospitalisation and treatment.

“His progress has been slow but sure, as is probably expected for a person of his age,” she said.

“What he was describing as a gentle process of withdrawal from public life is taking more real effect.”


Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu, the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, holds baby Cayden Hendriks at Tygerberg Children’s Hospital yesterday. The archbishop could not attend the event because his health is not in a good condition. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Meanwhile, at St George’s Cathedral in the city yesterday the congregation was left concerned after Tutu stopped short while delivering the morning service.

“He did mass this morning as normal, but then he was struggling to move. Somebody else had to take over,” one congregant said.

The City of Cape Town and the provincial government this week announced a Purple March for Reconciliation Day on Wednesday.

The authorities said in a joint statement that they wanted to honour Tutu and his wife Leah for dedicating “their lives to fostering peace and togetherness in a country that has overcome incredibly traumatic times”.

“The walk will be a peaceful celebration of two of this country’s most impactful leaders, so the mood will be festive and fun, with the intent of showing the Arch and Mama Leah gratitude, whilst also demonstrating the unity so vital to our society,” the statement read.

The Purple March will start on the Fan Walk in Somerset Road at 11am, and all participants are asked to dress in purple.

“This ties into the theme Purple, which is an acronym for Prayer, Unity, Reconciliation, Peace, Love and Equality, all the things our country needs to nurture the rainbow nation we all strive for,” the organisers said.

The provincial government has also lined Wale Street in the city centre with purple banners bearing Tutu’s smiling face.


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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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