Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has urged people to not be afraid to speak out against injustice while the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and his wife were receiving a special award from the man who is one of his successors in leading the Anglican church in southern Africa.
The Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, presented the Anglican Church's Archbishop's Award for Peace to Tutu and his wife Leah on April 22.
Tutu, supported by clerics like Makgoba, was a thorn in the side of the apartheid authorities in the 1970s and 1980s during the height of the struggle against South Africa's racist ideology of apartheid..
More recently he has been an outspoken critic of corruption under South African President Jacob Zuma.
The president was in exile during the latter part of the struggle against apartheid and was a high ranking officer in the armed wing of the African National Congress, which led the struggle and is now the governing party.
"When there is injustice, you can't help it even when the consequences of speaking up are as dire as they used to be under the apartheid system. You say 'tough luck, I just have to speak or I will die,'" said Tutu who said he never expected the award.
He added, "[Otherwise] I will maybe still be alive physically, but I will not be alive in my spirit."
"At 84, Tutu's age was visible in his slow shuffle to the altar and the time he took to sit and rise from his seat during the service," South Africa's News24 commented.
The Arch, as he is popularly known in South Africa, said afterwards getting the award that both he and his wife were both very humbled and with characteristic Tutu humour he thanked his dark complexion for hiding his blushing.
"I hope that it can help to inspire others to know that even when it seems that no one is noticing, yet yes, people notice and people appreciate you."
Previous recipients of the award include South Africa's Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda.
Makgoba said that, with a Bible verse in mind, he had looked at the principles and values of service to humanity, loving God, and walking humbly.
"There is no one better than the Tutus to be honoured in that way and indeed it is the church that is privileged and honoured to have bestowed this award upon them," Makgoba said.
Archbishop Makgoba has strongly criticised some of the actions of the South African government delivering his words during a graduation ceremony at the University of Witwatersrand during which he received an honorary degree March 31, Times Live reported.
"We live in a society based on fear. Our members of Parliament are too scared to hold the executive properly to account," he said in reference to President Zuma, who has been accused of corruption a number of times.
"Those in the executive or in public service who are alleged to have been approached by a well-known family living not too far from here – and who have allegedly been offered blandishments in return for business favors – have been too afraid to speak out about it.