Writes: Victor Sibeko

The passing of the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu has sent shock waves not only within South Africa but globally. Almost all news mediums are abuzz, full of lively conversations paying tribute to this anti-apartheid icon and a humanitarian of note.

I am equally saddened by the passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and reminded of fond memories shared with him and Mama Leah Tutu in several occasions. We had the privilege of hosting the couple and blessed by their presence.

I am delighted that PRISA made the right choice to honour this amazing human being always full of gratitude during my term of office as PRISA President Elect. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was awarded the PRISA Gold Medal for Outstanding Public Relations for South Africa at the PRISA PRISM Awards on Tuesday, 26 March 2008, held in Midrand, Gauteng.

The PRISA Gold Medal award honours remarkable individuals who used public relations and communication to reach the people of Southern Africa and place South Africa on the global map with a Gold Medal.

PRISA recognised Archbishop Tutu as a worthy recipient for raising the profile, image and reputation of South Africa as a country able to transform, develop and progress despite the challenges it faced. He was the most influential person in the peace and reconciliation process which he facilitated with dignity and empathy for all.

In essence, Archbishop Tutu  showed the world the true meaning of humanity and compassion and these comprise the warp and weft through which the rich patterns are threaded.

The Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu received the Gold Award for outstanding public relations and communication service to South Africa. He had just received a Nobel Laureate for fighting against apartheid, opposing the injustice and oppression in all forms.

At the time, in PRISA’s 50 years only eight awards had been presented thus far to deserving personalities. Previous recipients included Dr Chris Barnard (1968), Gary Player (1973), Dr Nico Diederichs (1975), Dr J G Loubser (1978), Louis Rive (1981), President F W de Klerk (1991), President Nelson Mandela (1996) and Mark Shuttleworth (2002). Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was the ninth person to join this honourary group.

Since then a number of outstanding personalities received the PRISA Gold Award included amongst others Judge Mervyn King – King Report on Corporate Governance),  Advocate Thuli Madonsela – past Public Protector, advocate and professor of law, holding a chair in social justice at Stellenbosch University and Dr Imtiaz Sooliman – Gift of the Givers.

With his familiar charm and grace, Archbishop Tutu accepted the award on behalf of all those who contributed to a new South Africa. Accepting the fact that an award could not be given to every person who deserved to be recognised.

Archbishop Tutu conceded that he had been chosen because of his easy name. He reminded Public Relations industry of the crucial role it plays in being among those who can help to form an image of a country and its future.

“With the passing of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South Africa has lost a hero, a torchbearer of justice, freedom and a true embodiment of selfless leadership. We’re poorer for his passing, but we are richer for the legacy he leaves behind.” says Tebogo Ditshego, current PRISA President.

We would like to extend our deepest condolences to Mama Leah Tutu in particular during this difficult time. We are keeping the family in our thoughts. We are certain that fond memories of Archbishop Tutu will bring some comfort as they work through the grieving process.

Archbishop Tutu as described by many others, was a Moral Compass, spoke truth to power, stood firm and fought for democracy. I wish we could emulate and follow in his footsteps by working tirelessly. It’s a sad day for South Africa and Global Community; Archbishop Tutu lived a life worth living and leave behind a legacy. He inspired all of us to step up and do justice. Difficult as it is let us celebrate his life rather than mourn his death.

Let the passing of the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu remind all of us that we are here to make other people live better, raise consciousness about justice, peace, forgiveness. As we mourn his passing difficult as it may be let us celebrate that he was born unto us, South Africans. Concluded Victor Sibeko, the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA) past president and Executive Director.

“It is possible for those who are different in all kinds of ways, to cohere as a unified community.”

– Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu –