Tag Archives: Rabble-Rouser for Peace

Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man

United Reformed Church online (UK)

Desmond Tutu, Rabble-Rouser for Peace by John Allen.
Pub Random House, pp480, ISBN 1844135713, £18.99

Desmond Tutu, 75 this year despite three cancer operations, has lived through, and crucially contributed to, the second most dramatic change in a social system in the 20th century after the fall of communism.

This authorised biography is almost a warts and all portrait, though the quoted criticisms are usually answered. But no-one lives such a life without making enemies and drawing exasperated comments even from friends. Allen paints a sensitive picture of his childhood, his mothers influence and his father’s drinking. His acceptance by the Community of the Resurrection and Trevor Huddleston in particular, his bouts of polio and tuberculosis (God must have wanted him to live!) and his educational progress to become a teacher in 1954. Desmond married Leah in 1955 though there is not much about family life in this book. Tutu was ordained around the time of the Sharpville massacre in 1960. He did further study in London 1962-66 and again worked there 1972-75. His reputation was rising both within the church and on the world scene.

The drama of three contentious elections for Anglican posts is carefully and entertainingly told, as is the story of his emergence onto the international scene, until Tutu was elected in 1986 as Archbishop of Cape Town: cometh the hour, cometh the man. By this time there had been plots on his life and he had won a Nobel peace prize though his most effective peace-making was yet to come.

His leadership years are well documented in three stages. The struggles of the late 1980s tested his public and private gifts almost to breaking point. The make-or-break years between Mandelas release and democratic elections in 1994 were extraordinarily demanding for Tutu, struggling to mediate at a time of frequent massacres and inter-tribal strife. Then came the unforeseen highest peak of achievement, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the carrot & stick of post-war restorative justice, neither Nuremburg nor amnesty.

Others will write more considered and analytical books about one of the great Christians of our time. But here is the life of a man called and kept close by God. His longest lasting legacy will not be his rabble-rousing but his faithful integrity. Desmond Tutu held out to the world an African model for expressing the nature of human community, truth and reconciliation, what we might call justice and peace, the word of Christ for our vulnerable century.


Biography of hardship, resilience, defiance against injustice and apartheid

Atlanta Dunia Website

Rabble-Rouser for Peace
The Authorized Biography of Desmond Tutu
By John Allen. Free Press. New York. Hard Cover. 496 pages

Reviewed by Mahadev Desai

John Allen, a respected and distinguished journalist, who has been a trusted friend of charismatic Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Laureate and spiritual father, whose words and experiences resonate with people of all faiths, has written an engrossing biography of him.

The absorbing biography, with 8 pages of vintage photographs, published to coincide with Tutu’s 75th Birthday, by Allen who has had 30 years of first-hand contact with him has garnered ecstatic reviews over the world. His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, comments, “Archbishop Tutu’s objective of seeking ‘a democratic and just society without racial divisions’ is not only applicable in South Africa, but wherever there are human beings.” Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States praises the biography, ”This book gives remarkable insights into how Tutu’s spiritual worldview and discipline molded him into the preeminent religious leader in South Africa’s struggle against racism and a passionate advocate of human rights internationally.” Anthony Lewis, former columnist, The New York Times, also lauds the biography,” This is a riveting book. John Allen has given us a profound portrait of one of the few great human beings of our age and of the country he did so much to save. He shows Archbishop Tutu in all his courage, his uproarious humor, his passion. And he discloses much that happened behind the scenes in the struggle that finally brought a peaceful revolution to South Africa.”

Tutu was born in October 1931, in Klerksdorp, South Africa. Despite a sickly childhood and other obstacles, he obtained his Teacher’s Diploma and began teaching at his old school in 1954. Tutu and Leah got married in 1955. The Afrikaner Nationalist government of 1948 had made race the fundamental building block of society. Coloreds were stripped of franchise. Harsh Pass Laws uprooted colored people and banished them into reserves. Workers were forced to live away from their families in single-sex hostels. Many lived in ‘matchbox houses’ without ceilings, electricity, bathrooms or hot water. Schools, housing, public transport, even beaches were segregated. Repugnant apartheid permeated in every sphere of life. There was political turmoil in the country. Harold Macmillan warned the government about the wind of change blowing through the continent.

Tutu could not go to medical school, so he decided to be a priest. He went to St.Peter’s College and graduated in 1960. He was ordained as a priest. While there,he showed gifts of leadership, so in 1962, he was strongly recommended to King’s College, London, for the degree of Bachelor of divinity. He earned his degree and went on to obtain Masters in Theology and then returned to South Africa in 1966. He was the first black lecturer at St.Peter’s College.

In 1970, Tutu got engaged in politics when he watched police brutally evicting hostel students from the black Fort Hare University, where he was a chaplain. Some time later, he was appointed associate director of the Theological Education Fund of the World Council of Churches in London. This necessitated extensive traveling in Africa. The travels proved very informative and educative for him.

Tutu returned to South Africa in 1975 and earnestly began challenging iron-fisted practice of apartheid. He became the first black dean of Johannesburg. Within less than a year, he became bishop of Lesotho. And two years later, Secretary –General of the South African Council of Churches. Here he initiated staff prayer meetings, silent retreats, insisting on courteous behavior on part of all.

For his relentless endeavors in promoting peace and racial reconciliation he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. It transformed the way he was perceived. ”One day no one was listening. The next, I was an Oracle.” To fight the racial injustice, he pressed for international economic sanctions.

In Easter 1993, after the assassination of Chris Hani, a hugely popular figure in the African National Council, Tutu exhorted the immense crowd to repeat the chants over and over,’ We will be free!’ ‘All of us!’ Black and white together!’ and concluded with a defiant declaration,”We are unstoppable! Nobody can stop us on our march to victory! No one, no guns, nothing! Nothing will stop us, for we are moving to freedom! We are moving to freedom and nobody can stop us! For God is on our side!” This sounded the death-knell of apartheid.

Allen then describes Tutu’s judicious role as head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which sought forgiveness for all sides. Today, the retired Archbishop continues to appeal to the world’s conscience by opposing the war and seeking help to fight the AIDS/HIV crisis sweeping Africa.

Tutu has many outstanding qualities that has made him a spiritual icon and a living legend. He has an irrepressible sense of humor, infectious gaiety and joy. When he was in London, he was known for calling worshippers to “roll up, roll up, and get your holy handshakes.”! He was unconcerned about his own security, “If I am doing God’s work, he should jolly well look after me.” He also has photographic memory, is fluent in six of the country’s languages and is a captivating orator who draws energy from the crowds.

In the judgment of Fred Williams, ”He (Tutu) becomes transfigured and it becomes transparently real when he’s in the pulpit. There is something of the otherworldly that shines through his eyes and in his smile and in his voice…that just lifts you into the upper realms.” Tutu was proud to be black. In one of his papers after the New York Theology Conference in New York, he wrote,” …we are fundamentally subjects, not objects, persons, not things. Each one of us is an “I” not an “it”…we are each somebody. We matter, we are alive and kicking and black is beautiful.” He is also very compassionate and caring.

Al Gore, the former vice president of the US likened Tutu’s authority to Gandhi’s “truth-force.” Secretary –General Kofi Annan of the United Nations said “He has been a voice for the voiceless and he has really stood for human rights and human dignity around the world…”

Tutu’s vision was built on the metaphor of a rainbow. During the Defiance Campaign of 1989, inspired by thousands of demonstrators which included whites, he described them as the ‘Rainbow people of the God.”

This emotive, compelling, uplifting, insightful and humanizing biography of hardship, resilience, defiance against injustice and apartheid, is a must-read for all who believe in freedom and justice. The biography reminds of the power of one man to change history. John Allen, through his personal experiences, complete access to the Tutu family, and painstaking research has written this outstanding biography of God’s warrior wielding a Holy Bible instead of a sword!

John Allen is a South African journalist who served as director of communications for that country’s groundbreaking Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and for Trinity Church, Wall Street, in New York. He is a former president of the South African Society of Journalists and has received awards in South Africa for defense of press freedom and in the United States for excellence in religious journalism.

Rabble-Rouser Shortlisted for SA Book Award

“Rabble-Rouser” was one of five South African non-fiction works shortlisted for South Africa’s annual Alan Paton Award for Non-Fiction.

The award, announced on June 16, 2007, was given to Ivan Vladislavic, for his book, “Portrait With Keys.” Bloomberg news reported on the award in a report from Cape Town, Afrikaans Epic, Suburban Memoir Win Africa’s Richest Book Prize .

At the awards ceremony, “Rabble-Rouser” was pronounced “The definitive study of the life of one of South Africa’s great heroes,” and described as “A full, rich account of Tutu’s life.”

The shortlist was announced at a function organised by the Sunday Times newspaper in Johannesburg on May 2. The other books shortlisted were:

  • THE SUITCASE STORIES: Refugee children reclaim their identities by Glynis Clacherty, Double Storey
  • WHITE SCARS: On Reading and Rites of Passage by Denis Hirson, Jacana Media
  • TOUCH MY BLOOD: The Early Years by Fred Khumalo, Umuzi

Of “Rabble-Rouser,” the judges said: “Rabble-Rouser for Peace is a powerful, meticulously crafted biography of Desmond Tutu. John Allen, who served as Tutu’s press secretary for many years, offers an insightful view of the Nobel laureate, examining his abiding spirituality and role in shaping South Africa’s history. It is also, as one juror noted, ‘a humane account of our times, and of our society and democracy in the making’.”

Full details here: SHORT LISTS ANNOUNCED: Prize fighters

Moving bio details ‘uniquely Tutu’ model of peace

The Anglican Journal

Hugh McCullum
Feb 1, 2007

John Allen writes of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s passion and compassion, his enormous charisma and his extraordinary ability to communicate with people – whites and blacks, enemies and friends, presidents and warlords, racists and liberals.

Inside this man whom much of the world knows as an ebullient, laughter-filled extrovert, a Nobel peace laureate who holds audiences and congregations spellbound, lives a meditative, contemplative person who needs six or seven hours a day in silence. The operative word is “needs,” for his own spiritual regeneration. He makes regular formal confessions and all this in the midst of a schedule, especially in the years he was head of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, (1986-96) that demanded, and saw, massive action in the struggle against the institutionalized racism called apartheid.

Mr. Allen, a white South African journalist and Archbishop Tutu’s press officer for nearly 30 years, writes this authorized biography as an insider but he writes about no plaster saint. Archbishop Tutu could exhibit a flaming temper, and a huge ego which more than once caused him to make serious errors of judgment. Like his friend, the late Canadian Anglican primate Ted Scott, he too often left his family behind as he flew around his huge province and the world. Money interested him but he never let lack of it, or the source of it, prevent him from doing what he thought right, to the despair of his various treasurers.

Mr. Allen’s account of a famous row between Archbishop Tutu and then-President P.W. Botha in 1988 in Cape Town is typical. The Sharpeville Six awaited execution and Archbishop Tutu was there on a pastoral mission to get their hanging, for allegedly murdering the deputy mayor of Sharpeville, stopped. He told President Botha, a Christian, that clemency would be an act of statesmanship. The president, notorious for his belligerent wagging finger, refused on the grounds that the courts were independent and berated Archbishop Tutu for a petition he had signed called for the unbanning of the African National Congress, calling him a Communist

Archbishop Tutu lost it. Wagging his finger back, he yelled at President Botha “I’m not a small boy, don’t think you are talking to a small boy … I thought I was talking to a civilized person.” The archbishop accused the president of South Africa of being a liar. President Botha tore back that Archbishop Tutu advocated armed struggle and “was on a wicked path.” Each said he loved South Africa more than the other. Each accused the other of arrogance. Eventually Archbishop Tutu walked out.

“I don’t know whether that is how Jesus would have behaved,” Archbishop Tutu told his staff, “but at the time I didn’t much care how Jesus would have behaved. I was going to handle it my way.” After months in court, the Sharpeville Six had their sentences commuted to long terms of imprisonment.

The contemplative lifestyle to which he aspired after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and his own retirement at 65 as archbishop eluded him, Mr. Allen writes.

The agonies of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which he had envisioned and chaired intervened:

“Too often in the church we want a spurious kind of reconciliation … a crying of peace, peace where there is no peace, daubing of the wall with whitewash, a papering over of cracks instead of dealing with the situation as it demands,” Archbishop Tutu wrote.

The church’s calling, he said, is to work for the fulfillment of God’s vision of “a new heaven and a new earth” in which “the wolf will lie down with the lamb.” But this can never be achieved with offending the powerful, he said.

The commission may have been Archbishop Tutu’s finest moment; although in real terms it was not a success, it lanced the boils of hatred and meted out restorative justice. But, Mr. Allen reports, it took a dreadful toll on Archbishop Tutu and his staff. The evidence was so brutal, so inhuman, so lacking in truth and reconciliation that nightly Archbishop Tutu was reduced to tears, sometimes adjourning hearings until he could stop and pray and carry on.

One day, after former President F.W. de Klerk appeared before the commission and refused to take any responsibility for the atrocities of apartheid, Archbishop Tutu was seen by a journalist slumped in his chair, “his shoulders covered in defeat.” He had been desperate for a white South African leader to stand up, acknowledge the past fully and find a way to take responsibility for it so the country could move on.

“Apartheid was a policy, a government policy, there was an avalanche of information … To say they did not know I could not understand. I sat there close to tears. I am devastated. All that was required to say is that we believed in this policy, but it was a policy that brought about all this suffering. It is a policy that killed people. Not by accident, but deliberately.”

Mr. Allen concludes this powerful, detailed, superbly moving biography with a legacy, an African legacy of peace and reconciliation to repair the fractures in society – a uniquely Desmond Tutu model for the 21st century. Ubuntu-botho does not allow perpetrators to escape the necessity of confessing and making restitution to survivors because the society is more important than the individual – the restoration of relationship is what is at the heart of reconciliation.

As Archbishop Tutu once told a priest who challenged his views on the subject: “God’s gift of forgiveness is gracious and unmerited but you must be willing … to appropriate the gift.”

Hugh McCullum is a Canadian author and journalist who lived and worked in Africa for 15 years until 2002. He worked for the All Africa Conference of Churches based in Nairobi, during the time Archbishop Tutu was president of the continent-wide ecumenical body. He travelled extensively with Archbishop Tutu in that capacity to many parts of Africa, including Liberia and Sierra Leone. Mr. McCullum is a former editor and general manager of Canadian Churchman, predecessor to the Anglican Journal.

The Bishop Who Signs Himself as “Boy”

Review for The Friend, UK Quaker journal
By Paul Oestreicher

I am suffering from acute withdrawal symptoms. Never before has reading a book had this effect on me. This life of Desmond Tutu, which I could hardly put down, is not only the work of a sensitive and perceptive journalist but of a person so intuitive, so inside his subject, that this could almost be an autobiography — almost, but not quite, for John Allen who has long worked closely with Desmond Tutu can also stand back and look at the man he admires with a critical eye. Authorised this portrait may be, but it is not hagiography.

Why the withdrawal symptoms? Because this enthralling story takes the reader deep into a world of cruelty and suffering and at the same time of redemption and forgiveness. It has taken me back into that world which my own life touched at many points. It is very hard to leave it. Desmond Tutu’s life spans virtually the whole history of the struggle against apartheid. His personal influence on that struggle and its ultimate almost miraculous outcome is assessed step by step in this tale which is not just one man’s story but an important contribution to the annals of South African history.

The many other actors in the story come alive too. Some of them would certainly want to tell the same story differently. Chapter by chapter, there is room for debate. But even the critics (the foes have nearly all been disarmed) know that this little archbishop, clown and confessor of the faith is much more than a key figure in South African history. He is a citizen of the world who universally personifies both justice and peace. The world, as the psalmist recognised long ago (Psalm 85), will be healed when these two, justice and peace, embrace. Now they are still in dynamic tension. That tension comes alive in this life. John Allen has chosen peace as the bottom line, and rightly so. Even when Tutu fights for justice it is never at the expense of peace, well, almost never, for at times the need to risk and even promote conflict is inescapable but always with reconciliation as the necessary outcome.

To build reconciliation into a political programme with something approaching success is South Africa’s — and to a remarkable degree Tutu’s — lasting achievement. It was in addressing Quakers in Philadelphia (p.176) that Tutu outlined the political knife-edge that he was constantly treading, living adventurously as Quakers are enjoined to do. English Quakers who — often with very good cause — have reason to treat their Anglican neighbours with considerable scepticism, may through this book be reconciled with an Anglo-Catholic spirituality without which Desmond Tutu’s ministry is unthinkable, a spirituality which comes very close to fulfilling the highest aspirations of the fathers and mothers of the Religious Society of Friends… including the need for social action to spring from a deep well of silence.

Of course this book is in the main about South Africa but Tutu’s vision is global. Since his official retirement as Archbishop of Cape Town he has become a universal ambassador for peace. Within the Church and far beyond its frontiers, he has become the champion of all who are the victims of discrimination. To be excluded because one is a woman or because one is gay is, for Desmond Tutu, no different from exclusion because one is black. ‘Naught for Your Comfort’ (to transpose from the world of apartheid) is also his message to Christian fundamentalists of whom there are many, and not a few in Africa. With the new South Africa — in part his own child — he is in solidarity but in critical, often very critical solidarity, a concept developed by Christians living under Communist rule which, remarkably, collapsed peacefully at the same time as apartheid.

Jesus wept as he looked down on Jerusalem “which does not know what makes for its peace”, not then and not now. To that situation too Tutu speaks the truth in love as he sees the suffering of the Palestinian people and challenges the rulers of Israel to listen to the voices of its prophets. Tutu loves Jews no less than their neighbours but fears for the soul of Israel if it fails to see what makes for peace. He understands Jewish fears, nurtured by centuries of Christian persecution, but embodies the truth that only love can cast out fear.

That all sounds terribly serious – and it is – but the Tutu story will help the reader to dance and laugh with a bishop who signs himself to some of his nearest and dearest (who know all too well what that means in South Africa) as simply ‘Boy’.

Extraordinary, fallible Tutu

The Natal Witness, Pietermaritzburg
Tue, 12 Dec 2006
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu celebrated his 75th birthday in October. Two books commemorate this celebration. RON NICOLSON reviews them.

John Allen in Rabble Rouser for Peace: the authorized biography of Desmond Tutu captures the history of our life in the last part of the 20th century and lays bare for us again things that those of us old enough to remember have almost forgotten, and that those born after the end of apartheid need to know about. Old names of villains and heroes, old associates, long filed away in memory, come back to life. We have forgotten just how bad things were, how wicked, how brutal, in the last days of apartheid, and how miraculous our deliverance. And in that history, right through to the present day, Tutu stands among the giants.

The book reminds us of the role that religion can play in society. Allen’s book shows there is no escaping the religious conviction that is the foundation for Tutu’s role in South Africa. His passion for justice, his intense love for the oppressed and for the oppressor alike, which has marked the difference between South African liberation and that of other places of upheaval, springs directly out of Tutu’s theological convictions and his relationship with his God.

Allen was Tutu’s press secretary and director of communication for most of his time as Archbishop of Cape Town and as the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He clearly admires Tutu. Yet the book is no hagiography. We see Tutu developing from a sickly and somewhat spoilt little boy to an earnest but ordinary student (his degree at King’s College, London, was adequate but not brilliant) to the great man who, despite his small physical stature, became a colossus on the world stage. Tutu, in Allen’s account, matures over the years. He seems to have been a self-centred young man with an eye to advancement. More than once Allen refers, albeit defensively, to charges that in younger days Tutu was not good about managing his personal finances. Tutu changed jobs more quickly than many liked at the time. As an angry black spokesperson, who often (then as now) spoke off the cuff and in the heat of emotion, he sometimes seemed to espouse the violence which he later renounced. All of this Allen faithfully reflects.

There are other criticisms which Allen does not mention. Tutu did seem to live in the style of a prince-bishop of old. When Philip and Eirene Russell lived at Bishopscourt as Archbishop of Cape Town, the house was faded and forlorn. Eirene did much of the housework herself. When Tutu succeeded Russell, he did not think the house befitted the rank of Archbishop. He ruffled feathers in Cape Town when he insisted that, what seemed at the time, a lot of money be spent on refurbishing. As Tutu’s reputation spread, he sometimes had less attention to spare for old friends who had helped him up the ladder. Tutu lived in the limelight, but behind the scenes he depended on others (Michael Nuttall while he was Archbishop, Alex Boraine in the days of the TRC) to keep the machinery of administration moving behind the scenes and without them his work would have descended into a shambles.

He would be the first to confess these human failings. But the signs of greatness were there from the beginning. His greatness lies in his passion for speaking the truth and in his pastoral love. Father Aelred Stubbs (the man who put Steve Biko on the map, the man who was responsible for Tutu being sent to London for training) once said to me, when Tutu was in some disfavour in the church for abandoning his job as Bishop of Lesotho for the job as general secretary of the SACC and for calling aggressively for sanctions, “But we could see from the start that Desmond has an unquenchable pastoral heart. Desmond loves people. Desmond will come back to being a bishop.”

Tutu loves high society and being in the public eye. Yet at society dinners he would embarrass his hosts by engaging the domestic help in conversation too, remembering their names and the names of their family from previous visits. He has a phenomenal memory for names and personal history.

Before apartheid ended, whites hated Tutu for his stand on sanctions. Significant white liberals were suspicious. Alan Paton disliked him (I am not sure whether Paton ever met him, but the two men were poles apart in temperament). Bishop Burnett, previous Archbishop of Cape Town, thought he confused religion with politics and in later life waged a campaign against him. Many whites were plainly abusive. Allen tells the story of an angry white woman out for her morning jog shouting “you black communist wog” at Tutu, who had just reiterated his call for sporting sanctions. Today most whites adore him, partly because it became clear that Tutu’s love extended to them as well and partly because he is unafraid to speak his mind to anyone, be it George W. Bush for the Iraq war, Nelson Mandela for living with Graça before marriage, Thabo Mbeki for his stand on Zimbabwe or HIV/Aids or the previous Archbishop of Canterbury for his behaviour at the Lambeth Conference on the issue of homosexuality (“I am ashamed to be an Anglican,” wrote Tutu to George Carey. Tutu has made no secret of his belief that homosexuals are often discriminated against just as black people were discriminated against under apartheid).

Why a “rabble rouser for peace”? Tutu is a born orator, able to evoke and yet direct the powerful emotions of a crowd. Allen describes several situations where Tutu took the podium at highly-charged rallies and funerals, with mob violence a hair’s breadth away, and swayed the emotion of the crowd by first giving expression to their feelings and then shifting their feelings from anger to affirmations of hope and engagement. Mvume Dandala, in the book mentioned at the end of this article, describes his own personal experience of just such an occasion.

“Some people think I am a politician trying to be a bishop,” Tutu once quipped about himself. But the truth, as Allen’s biography makes clear, is that Tutu is no politician at all. Politicians choose their words carefully and strategically; they play off their ideals against what is realistically possible. Tutu is spontaneous and, because of his religious faith, utterly idealistic. Allen reminds us how important withdrawal and prayer are for Tutu. In the busiest times he spends several hours of each day in private prayer. He is torn between activism and a life of contemplation.

This is the unseen side of Tutu and the well-spring of his approach to political engagement.

His idealism springs from his deep Christian convictions – that because God loves each person, he must love them too. Because God made and loves the humble black grandmother, she is in a sense the temple of God and must he honoured and respected; but because God made and loves P. W. Botha and the Special Branch torturer, they must be loved and respected too, provided they make even the smallest attempt to be honest and penitent. It is this compassion for the oppressor, this recognition that the oppressor too is a victim of the system, that in the end makes Tutu greater than those who were originally his models like Trevor Huddlestone (Allen describes an incident, late in Huddlestone’s life, when Tutu looks on discomfited and stonyfaced while Huddlestone talks of abiding hate).

Tutu left his mark on the TRC. There have been trenchant criticisms of the TRC – that it was too Christian, that it ironically used a colonial religious dogma (“forgive your enemies, do good to those who hate you”) to quell the righteous anger of the colonised, that it forgave the unforgivable. Allen makes the point that the roots of the TRC were not religious but realpolitik, the reality that unless amnesty was offered no one would get what they wanted. But there is no doubt that for Tutu his Christian convictions are his entire motivation and his manifest agony at hearing the stories gave the TRC the human face that it needed.

Tutu is a man for all people. Perhaps, in part, it is because his mother was Sotho and his father Xhosa. His beginnings were in the townships, yet he enjoys high society. He speaks Sotho and the Nguni languages fluently, as well as Afrikaans and English. He is a man of Africa (I recall him once speaking emotionally about his closeness with the ancestors) and yet his theological education under the Mirfield fathers followed by his time at King’s have made him a man of the liberal West as well.

The book is well researched. It is an enthralling read and not a mere academic tome. It reminds us powerfully of a history we should not forget. There are some fascinating new titbits – for example, the role played by Margaret Thatcher in getting Tutu elected as Bishop of Johannesburg. Yet for a biography the historical thread is difficult to follow. The chapters are grouped largely around themes rather than chronological dates, so the reader is jerked back and forth from one period to another, and trying to find exact dates for events is a nightmare.

But it does give insight into one of the greatest of South Africans, one who loves being in the limelight of the world and yet whose roots lie in Cape Town and even more in Soweto. Schoolchildren and adults alike, black and white and rainbow-coloured (Tutu invented the phrase “rainbow people of God” at a rally where whites, coloureds and blacks all raised their hands in response to his “rabble rousing”) will profit from it.

Lavinia Crawford-Browne, the editor of the second book, was Tutu’s personal assistant for many years. She has compiled a charming set of memoirs of Tutu to mark his 75th birthday, Tutu as I know him. The memoirs are all quite short and range from personal to far-off admiration from a Grade 4 class in Britain. The list of 55 contributors is a testimony to just how South African and yet international Tutu is – from Pieter-Dirk Uys, Mamphele Rampele, Jakes Gerwel to Kofi Annan, Denzel Washington and the Dalai Lama, people great and small. All of them know him. All of them were touched by him. The book is enriched with many photographs and some Zapiro cartoons. It is a much more appropriate 75th birthday commemoration than a dry academic festschrift.

• Rabble Rouser for Peace: the authorized biography of Desmond Tutu by John Allen is published by Random House.
• Tutu as I know him by Lavinia Crawford-Browne (ed) is published by Umuzi.

A revolutionary peacemaker

Montreal Gazette, Canada  – Dec 2, 2006

Rabble Rouser for Peace: The Authorized Biography of Desmond Tutu, by John Allen (Free Press, 481 pages, $35.99), focuses on one of South Africa’s greatest icons, and it’s helpful in understanding why South Africa is still struggling with the after-effects of apartheid.

As much a history of South Africa’s apartheid regime as the personal story of Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner and retired Anglican archbishop, this book serves as a reminder of the price to be paid when governments exploit and abuse a population.

The truth about Tutu

This biography is “a substantial contribution to social history,” says Cape Times reviewer Gerald Shaw. “It suggests that moral values and courage in proclaiming and living such values can be more powerful in human affairs than is often believed.”

Click on the headline above to pull up the full page and read a PDF of the review, published on October 31, 2006.