23. March 2022


Esteemed participants, distinguished guests, friends, and fellow South Africans, thank you for joining the South African Embassy in Vienna this evening to commemorate the legacy of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu.

It is an honour to host this event, in partnership with the Southern Africa Documentation and Cooperation Centre (SADOCC).

Thank you, Dr Sauer, for agreeing to co-host this event with the Embassy.

I wish to especially thank the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation for its support of this important Embassy initiative.

In this regard, a special word of appreciation goes to the acting CEO, Ms Phumi Nhalpo for agreeing to deliver the keynote speech.

I wish to acknowledge Professor James Alfred Loader, a leading and highly respected international scholar from the University of Vienna, and the Reverend Canon Patrick Curran, Chaplain of Christ Church in Vienna for their generous participation.

Undoubtedly, their reflections will serve to provide further fascinating perspectives on the work and legacy of Desmond Tutu.  

It is appropriate, I believe, that we are hosting this event in Vienna, one of the four United Nations Headquarters internationally.

The United Nations plays a pivotal role in the promotion and advancement of multilateralism and human rights globally.

It is apt, therefore, that we utilise a human rights platform to commemorate the remarkable life’s work of a truly global human rights icon, and his invaluable contribution to political and social justice, not only in South Africa, but the entire world.

The passing of South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon and Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu signals an end of an era.

It gives pause for reflection on his inestimable contribution to a better South Africa and a better world.

Often controversial, but consistently, unapologetically, and uncompromisingly truthful, Desmond Tutu spoke truth to power.

He fought for the equality and dignity of all people without distinction.  He boldly and courageously opposed any form of discrimination and intolerance, whenever, and wherever, he encountered it.

He spoke for the marginalised and powerless, even when it drew the ire of the powerful.  

His message transcended geographical, racial, gender, cultural, ethnic, and linguistic boundaries.

In a world grappling with rising levels of inequality, discrimination, and intolerance, at an unprecedented and global scale, his message of peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation, resonates more powerfully than ever before.

Desmond Tutu’s legacy underscores the imperative for dialogue and co-operation, towards addressing common and existential challenges facing the world today.

As an outspoken and fearless critic of the South African apartheid regime, Desmond Tutu played a seminal role in South Africa’s transition from a pariah apartheid state to a constitutional democracy, and a respected member of the international community.   

He was viewed by millions as the moral compass of South Africa, and the voice of the voiceless. 

The words of former South African president, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, perhaps best encapsulates, in part, the sum of Desmond Tutu, the man.

He said, “sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid and seldom without humour, Desmond Tutu’s voice will always be the voice of the voiceless”.

His legacy is cause for celebration.  

I thank you.

Ambassador Rapulane Molekane

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