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South Africa’s Tutu – anti-apartheid hero who never stopped fighting for “Rainbow Nation”

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South Africa's Tutu - anti-apartheid hero who never stopped fighting for
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Archbishop Desmond Tutu gestures at the launch of a human rights campaign marking the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , December 10, 2007. The campaign aims at getting a billion people to sign in su

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, (Reuters) – “Like falling in love” is how Archbishop Desmond Tutu described voting in South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994, a remark that captured both his puckish humour and his profound emotions after decades fighting apartheid.

Desmond Mpilo Tutu, the Nobel Peace laureate whose moral might permeated South African society during apartheid’s darkest hours and into the unchartered territory of new democracy, has died, South Africa’s presidency said on Sunday. He was 90.

The outspoken Tutu was considered the nation’s conscience by both Black and white, an enduring testament to his faith and spirit of reconciliation in a divided nation.

    He preached against the tyranny of white minority and even after its end, he never wavered in his fight for a fairer South Africa, calling the black political elite to account with as much feistiness as he had the white Afrikaners.

In his final years, he regretted that his dream of a “Rainbow Nation” had not yet come true.

On the global stage, the human rights activist spoke out across a range of topics, from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories to gay rights, climate change and assisted death – issues that cemented Tutu’s broad appeal.

“The passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is another chapter of bereavement in our nation’s farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Just five feet five inches (1.68 metres) tall and with an infectious giggle, Tutu was a moral giant who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his non-violent struggle against apartheid.

He used his high-profile role in the Anglican Church to highlight the plight of black South Africans.

Asked on his retirement as Archbishop of Cape Town in 1996 if he had any regrets, Tutu said: “The struggle tended to make one abrasive and more than a touch self-righteous. I hope that people will forgive me any hurts I may have caused them.”

Talking and travelling tirelessly throughout the 1980s, Tutu became the face of the anti-apartheid movement abroad while many of the leaders of the rebel African National Congress (ANC), such as Nelson Mandela, were behind bars.

“Our land is burning and bleeding and so I call on the international community to apply punitive sanctions against this government,” he said in 1986.

Even as governments ignored the call, he helped rouse grassroots campaigns around the world that fought for an end to apartheid through economic and cultural boycotts.

Former hardline white president P.W. Botha asked Tutu in a letter in March 1988 whether he was working for the kingdom of God or for the kingdom promised by the then-outlawed and now ruling ANC.

GRAVESIDE ORATIONS

Among his most painful tasks was delivering graveside orations for Black people who had died violently during the struggle against white domination.

“We are tired of coming to funerals, of making speeches week after week. It is time to stop the waste of human lives,” he once said.

Tutu said his stance on apartheid was moral rather than political.

“”It’s easier to be a Christian in South Africa than anywhere else, because the moral issues are so clear in this country,” he once told Reuters.

In February 1990, Tutu led Nelson Mandela on to a balcony at Cape Town’s City Hall overlooking a square where the ANC talisman made his first public address after 27 years in prison.

He was at Mandela’s side four years later when he was sworn in as the country’s first black president.

“Sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid and seldom without humour, Desmond Tutu’s voice will always be the voice of the voiceless,” is how Mandela, who died in December 2013, described his friend.

While Mandela introduced South Africa to democracy, Tutu headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that laid bare the terrible truths of the war against white rule.

Some of the heartrending testimony moved him publicly to tears.

PULLED NO PUNCHES

But Tutu was as tough on the new democracy as he was on South Africa’s apartheid rulers.

He castigated the new ruling elite for boarding the “gravy train” of privilege and chided Mandela for his long public affair with Graca Machel, whom he eventually married.

In his Truth Commission report, Tutu refused to treat the excesses of the ANC in the fight against white rule any more gently than those of the apartheid government.

Even in his twilight years, he never stopped speaking his mind, condemning President Jacob Zuma over allegations of corruption surrounding a $23 million security upgrade to his home.

In 2014, he admitted he did not vote for the ANC, citing moral grounds.

“As an old man, I am sad because I had hoped that my last days would be days of rejoicing, days of praising and commending the younger people doing the things that we hoped so very much would be the case,” Tutu told Reuters in June 2014.

In December 2003, he rebuked his government for its support for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, despite growing criticism over his human rights record.

Tutu drew a parallel between Zimbabwe’s isolation and South Africa’s battle against apartheid.

“We appealed for the world to intervene and interfere in South Africa’s internal affairs. We could not have defeated apartheid on our own,” Tutu said. “What is sauce for the goose must be sauce for the gander too.”

He also criticised South African President Thabo Mbeki for his public questioning of the link between HIV and AIDS, saying Mbeki’s international profile had been tarnished.

SCHOOL TEACHER’S SON

A schoolteacher’s son, Tutu was born in Klerksdorp, a conservative town west of Johannesburg, on Oct. 7, 1931.

The family moved to Sophiatown in Johannesburg, one of the commercial capital’s few mixed-race areas, subsequently demolished under apartheid laws to make way for the white suburb of Triomf – “Triumph in Afrikaans.

Always a passionate student, Tutu first worked as a teacher. But he said he had become infuriated with the system of educating Blacks, once described by a South African prime minister as aimed at preparing them for their role in society as servants.

Tutu quit teaching in 1957 and decided to join the church, studying first at St. Peter’s Theological College in Johannesburg. He was ordained a priest in 1961 and continued his education at King’s College in London.

After four years abroad, he returned to South Africa, where his sharp intellect and charismatic preaching saw him rise through lecturing posts to become Anglican Dean of Johannesburg in 1975, which was when his activism started taking shape.

“I realised that I had been given a platform that was not readily available to many Blacks, and most of our leaders were either now in chains or in exile. And I said: ‘Well, I’m going to use this to seek to try to articulate our aspirations and the anguishes of our people’,” he told a reporter in 2004.

By now too prominent and globally respected to be thrust aside by the apartheid government, Tutu used his appointment as Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches in 1978 to call for sanctions against his country.

He was named the first Black Archbishop of Cape Town in 1986, becoming the head of the Anglican Church, South Africa’s fourth largest. He would retain that position until 1996.

In retirement he battled prostate cancer and largely withdrew from public life. In one of his last public appearances, he hosted Britain’s Prince Harry, his wife Meghan and their four-month-old son Archie at his charitable foundation in Cape Town in September 2019, calling them a “genuinely caring” couple.

Tutu married Leah in 1955. They had four children and several grandchildren, and homes in Cape Town and Soweto township near Johannesburg.

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More work to resume in Shanghai’s zero-COVID areas from June

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© Reuters. Women carry boxes of food on a street during lockdown, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, China, May 18, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) -The COVID-19-hit financial hub of Shanghai will start to allow more businesses in zero-COVID areas to resume normal operations from the beginning of June, a deputy mayor said on Thursday as the city looks forward to the end of lockdown.

Shanghai, fighting China’s biggest ever coronavirus outbreak, has been steadily allowing more businesses to reopen and letting larger numbers of residents leave their homes for the first time in nearly seven weeks.

The city was “striving to achieve a full resumption of work and production as soon as possible”, deputy mayor Zhang Wei told a media briefing.

“The rhythm of work resumption” would be based on the epidemic prevention situation, he said, adding that for the rest of May, many workers would remain in “closed loops”, which often involves staff living at their work places.

Shanghai’s stable energy, water and information infrastructure throughout the outbreak “guarantees that the city’s pulse has the strength to beat after the slowdown, and also supports the continuous recovery of the city’s economy”, he said.

After nearly two months of disruptions, cargo deliveries were gradually returning to normal, Zhang said, with daily container throughput at Shanghai’s ports now at about 90% of levels a year ago.

Pudong Airport cargo throughput had reached 70% of last year’s levels, while freight vehicles entering and leaving the city was back to two thirds.

Yu Fulin, an official with Shanghai’s transportation commission, told the briefing the city would start to restore main cross-district public transport on May 22. The priority would be reopening routes connecting the city’s airports, railway stations and hospitals, he said.

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U.S. Senate confirms Biden nominee to be Ukraine ambassador

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Bridget Brink, nominated to be U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, testifies at her Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate unanimously approved veteran diplomat Bridget Brink on Wednesday to be ambassador to Ukraine, filling a critical post that has been vacant for three years as Washington works to increase support for the government in Kyiv.

Brink was approved by unanimous voice vote.

Both President Joe Biden’s fellow Democrats and Republicans had urged Brink’s quick confirmation. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Brink unanimously earlier on Wednesday, after holding her confirmation hearing just two weeks after Biden announced the nomination on April 25.

The quick action underscored the desire from both parties to send an ambassador to support Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as he faces Russia’s invasion. Brink’s Senate confirmation came on the same day that the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv reopened after a three-month closure due to Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.

The Senate also is expected later this week to approve nearly $40 billion in military and humanitarian support for Kyiv, funding that has already passed the House of Representatives.

A Michigan native who speaks Russian, Brink is currently U.S. ambassador to Slovakia. A diplomat for 25 years, she has worked in Uzbekistan and Georgia as well as in several senior positions across the State Department and White House National Security Council.

Brink was also confirmed by unanimous voice vote in 2019, when former Republican President Donald Trump nominated her for the position in Bratislava.

There has not been a U.S. ambassador in Kyiv since May 2019, when Trump abruptly recalled then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

Yovanovitch later testified as Trump faced impeachment on charges of withholding military aid to put pressure on Zelenskiy to investigate Biden, then seen as Trump’s most likely opponent in the 2020 election.

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N.Korea boosts production of drugs, medical supplies to battle COVID

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© Reuters. Members of the North Korean army supply medicines to residents at a pharmacy, amid growing fears over the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo on May 18, 2022. Kyodo/via REUTERS

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By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) -North Korea is ramping up production of drugs and medical supplies including sterilisers and thermometers as it battles an unprecedented coronavirus outbreak, state media KCNA said on Thursday.

The isolated country, which has imposed a nationwide lockdown, is also increasing production of traditional Korean medicines used to reduce fever and pain, KCNA said, calling them “effective in prevention and cure of the malicious disease.”

A sweeping COVID wave, which North Korea first confirmed last week, has fanned concerns over a lack of medical resources and vaccines, with the U.N. human rights agency warning of “devastating” consequences for its 25 million people.

At least 262,270 more people reported fever symptoms, and one additional person died as of Wednesday evening, KCNA said, citing data from the state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters. It did not specify how many people had tested positive for the virus.

North Korea has so far reported 1,978,230 people with fever symptoms and 63 deaths, and imposed strict anti-virus measures.

Factories are churning out more injections, medicines, thermometers and other medical supplies in the capital Pyongyang and nearby regions “in a lightning way,” while more isolation wards were installed and disinfection work intensified around the country, KCNA said.

“Thousands of tons of salt were urgently transported to Pyongyang City to produce antiseptic solution,” KCNA said.

The reports came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un criticised ineffective distribution of drugs and slammed officials for their “immature” responses to the epidemic.

Without a national vaccination campaign and COVID treatment, state media have encouraged patients to use painkillers and antibiotics as well as unverified home remedies, such as gargling salt water, or drinking lonicera japonica tea or willow leaf tea.

South Korea and the United States have respectively offered to help North Korea fight the outbreak, including sending aid, but have not received a response, Seoul’s deputy national security advisor said on Wednesday.

However, three aircraft from North Korea’s Air Koryo arrived in China and returned to Pyongyang on Monday carrying medical supplies, a diplomatic source said on condition of anonymity.

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