South Africa's Desmond Tutu possessed qualities that all politicians wish they had – Angus Robertson MSP

Only once in a while does the passing of a person inspire mourning from people of nearly all nations, religions and political persuasions. The passing of Desmond Tutu is one of those times.

Desmond Tutu, pictured with a bust of former South African president Nelson Mandela in 2001, has died aged 90 (Picture: William Conran/PA)

The South African activist and religious leader had an unbending sense of justice and an apparently crystal-clear vision of right and wrong in any given circumstance – such vision all politicians wish we had.

From the moment he resigned his post as a teacher in protest at racist policies, he became a central figure of the anti-apartheid movement, going on to becoming a key mediator in the post-apartheid truth and reconciliation commission.

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His battle against injustice did not stop there. Throughout his life, he rallied behind minority groups facing persecution. He compared the exclusion of women in society and the church akin to apartheid and drove forward the ordination of female priests in the Anglican church.

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Post-apartheid, he became the world's most prominent religious leader advocating LGBT+ rights in spite of criticism internationally and from the church, saying “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say, sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place”.

His ability to be precise and cutting, yet gentle – and even humorous – in his condemnation of injustice is another of Tutu’s attributes we politicians wish we had on tap.

Here’s another example: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” Desmond Tutu RIP.

Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary

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