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Desmond Mpilo Tutu married Nomalizo Leah Shenxane in July 1955. They got to know each other through Leah’s friendship with Desmond’s younger sister, Gloria. Leah also attended the school in Krugersdorp where Desmond’s father was the headmaster. Desmond was a schoolteacher when they married; Leah, a nurse-in-training.
The wedding took place one week after a seminal event in South Africa’s history: The signing of the Freedom Charter at Kliptown, in Soweto, where South Africans of all backgrounds, classes, religions and ideological persuasions committed themselves to replacing apartheid with a non-racial democracy.
Desmond was soon to quit teaching in disgust at the introduction of a deliberately inferior system of education for black South Africans. In 1960 he was ordained as an Anglican priest, following in the footsteps of his mentor, the activist priest from England, Trevor Huddlestone.
Desmond rose through the ranks, from Dean of Johannesburg to Bishop of Lesotho, secretary-general of the South African Council of Churches, to Archbishop of Cape Town. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his contribution to overcoming apartheid. Upon his retirement from the church, he headed the newly-democratic South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In 2011 he announced his retirement from public life – but continues nonetheless as chairman of The Elders, and to spread his global mission for a fairer more caring world.
Leah is the glue that holds it all together. The wise guide with her feet on the ground who brooks no nonsense. Propellor. Activist. Supporter. Lover.