By 1600 all of what is now South Africa has been settled by indigenous Africans. European intrusion into the region begins in 1652 when the Dutch establish a settlement at the Cape of Good Hope on the southwestern tip of Africa. The British seizure of the settlement in 1795 leads to conflict with the established European farmers (the Boer). The conflict eventually boils over into the Boer War of 1899-1902. The British win but ultimately opt to give South Africa independence.
The Union of South Africa is formed on 31 May 1910. Black South Africans have limited voting rights and are subjected to growing discrimination. In 1948 the National Party wins the all-white general election on a campaign promise to introduce a system of "apartheid" to totally separate the races. Opposition to the apartheid system by the black majority is ruthlessly suppressed. The National Party will remain in power until 1994. More background.
Born on 7 October 1931 in Klerksdorp, about 150 km southwest of Johannesburg, South Africa. His father is a teacher and his mother a domestic worker. Tutu is raised in an atmosphere of tolerance and sympathy where, he later says, "I never learnt to hate." When Tutu is 12 his family moves to Johannesburg.
1945 - Tutu enters Johannesburg Bantu High School. He matriculates in 1950 then trains as a teacher at Pretoria Bantu Normal College, receiving his diploma in 1953. Tutu had wished to become a doctor, but his family could not afford to pay for his training. He studies for bachelor of arts degree instead.
1948 - The National Party is voted into power by the white electorate. The party has campaigned on the promise to introduce a system of "apartheid" to totally separate the races. Discrimination against blacks, "coloureds" and Asians will be codified and extended.
All South Africans are legally assigned to one racial group - white, African, coloured or Asian. All races have separate living areas and separate amenities (such as toilets, parks and beaches). Signs enforcing the separation are erected throughout the country. Only white South Africans are allowed full political rights.
Black Africans have no parliamentary representation outside of the supposedly independent homelands created by the state. Mixed marriages are prohibited. Black trade unions are banned. Education is provided only up to a level to which it is deemed "a native is fitted." Separate universities and colleges are established for Africans, coloureds and Indians. Jobs can be categorised as being for whites only. Travel without a pass is not permitted.
Police powers are expanded. Those charged with dissent are presumed guilty until proven innocent. The Suppression of Communism Act (1950) allows the police to "list" almost any opponent of apartheid as a supporter of the outlawed Communist Party of South Africa.
Opponents can be "banned", an order subjecting them to lengthy periods of house arrest and preventing them from holding public office, attending public meetings and visiting specified areas. The Native Administration Act (1956) allows the government to "banish" Africans to remote rural areas.
During the 1950s there are approximately 500,000 pass law arrests annually, more than 600 individuals are listed as communists, nearly 350 are banned, and more than 150 are banished.
1952 - In February the African National Congress (ANC) calls on the government to repeal all unjust laws or face a 'Campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws'. Mass rallies and strikes staged on 6 April and 26 June attract thousands of supporters.
The government reacts by introducing harsher penalties for protests against apartheid. Campaign leaders and opposition newspapers are banned and about 8,500 people are arrested.
1954 - After graduating with a bachelor of arts from the University of South Africa, Tutu becomes a schoolteacher at high schools near Johannesburg.
1955 - The ANC writes a 'Freedom Charter' stating that South Africa belongs to all people living within it regardless of race, that all South Africans should be treated equally before the law, and that the country's wealth should be distributed equitably.
Meanwhile, Tutu marries on 2 July. He and his wife Leah will have four children.
1957 - The deterioration of the education system for blacks caused by the introduction of the Bantu Education Act in 1953 leaves Tutu feeling dissatisfied with the teaching profession. He decides to become a priest. Speaking later he claims he was not motivated by high ideals. "It just occurred to me that, if the Church would have me, the profession of priest could be a good way of serving my people."
1958 - He resigns from teaching to begin his ordination training at St Peters Theological College in Johannesburg.
1959 - A radical faction of the ANC splits from the parent body and forms the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC). The PAC advocates direct action against the apartheid regime.
1960s - The regime introduces a program of forced relocation. Africans, coloureds and Asians are moved from areas designated for whites only to the "homelands" and other declared areas. By the 1980s about 3.5 million have been relocated.
1960 - In March the PAC begins a national campaign against the pass laws. Africans are asked to assemble outside police stations without their passes and challenge the police to arrest them. The confrontation turns violent on 21 March when police open fire on a peaceful protest at Sharpeville, a black township near Johannesburg. Sixty-nine black Africans are killed and 186 wounded. Most have been shot in the back.
When demonstrations continue, the government declares a state of emergency and arrests about 18,000 protesters, including the leaders of the ANC and the PAC.
Tutu, meanwhile, is ordained as deacon.
1961 - As international protests against apartheid mount, South Africa is expelled from the British Commonwealth.
On 31 May, after gaining approval in a referendum restricted to whites, the government declares South Africa a republic. Mandela organises a national strike in protest. When the government responds by introducing new and harsher laws, and by mobilising its armed forces to break up the strike, Mandela comes to the conclusion that the time has come for the ANC to move beyond nonviolent protest.
The ANC forms Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), its military wing, in November. Under Nelson Mandela's leadership Umkhonto launches a campaign of sabotage against government and economic installations. Over the next two years 200 acts of sabotage will be carried out by Umkhonto, targeting power supplies, pass offices and other government buildings.
Meanwhile, Tutu is ordained as an Anglican parish priest and lectures at a theological seminary in Johannesburg.
1962 - Tutu travels to England to undertake further theological study, obtaining a bachelor of divinity at Kings College, London, in 1965 and a masters in theology in 1966, also from Kings. While studying he works as a part-time curate.
1964 - On 11 June Mandela, Walter Sisulu and six others are convicted for plotting to overthrow the government by violence and then bring about a communist state. All eight are sentenced to life imprisonment and sent Robben Island Prison, a former leper colony 7 km off the coast from Cape Town, becoming a symbol for the struggle of black South Africans and a focus of world attention.
However, despite growing international criticism of the apartheid regime, foreign investment continues to pour into the country and immigration rises.
1967 - Tutu returns to South Africa to teach at the Federal Theological Seminary at Alice on the Eastern Cape. He also serves as chaplain at the University of Fort Hare.
1970 - Tutu lectures in theology at the University of Botswana in Roma, Lesotho.
1972 - He returns to London to serve as an assistant director for the World Council of Churches. He is also honorary curate of St Augustine's.
1973 - The United Nations (UN) declares apartheid "a crime against humanity."
1975 - Tutu returns to South Africa and is appointed dean of St Mary's Cathedral in Johannesburg, the first black to hold the position. He emerges as an eloquent spokesperson for the antiapartheid movement and begins to attract world attention.
1976 - The Soweto uprising begins on 16 June when high school students protest against the enforced use of Afrikaans in schools. After the police respond with tear gas and gunfire, demonstrators attack and burn down government buildings.
The uprising leads to weeks of demonstrations, marches and boycotts throughout South Africa. Violent clashes with police leave more than 500 dead, several thousand arrested, and thousands more seeking refuge outside the country, many with the exiled forces of the ANC.
Meanwhile, Tutu is consecrated Bishop of Lesotho.
1978 - Tutu is appointed the first black general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, becoming one of the leading critics of apartheid both in South Africa and on the international stage.
He describes the apartheid system as "evil and unchristian" and calls for "a democratic and just society without racial divisions" where there are equal civil rights for all. He advocates the use of nonviolent resistance by black South Africans and encourages the world community to apply economic sanctions against the regime. The apartheid government responds by cancelling his passport.
1979 - With capital leaving the country because of political instability, and with the economy beginning to slow, the government attempts to reduce industrial unrest by allowing black workers to form unions. The first chink in the apartheid system has appeared.
1983 - The United Democratic Front (UDF), a coalition of nearly 600 organisations, is formed to persuade the government to abolish apartheid. Tutu emerges as one of the front's principal spokesmen. By 1984 the front has a membership of more than three million.
1984 - Tutu receives the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of "the courage and heroism shown by black South Africans in their use of peaceful methods in the struggle against apartheid."
The Nobel Committee asks that the awarding of the prize to Tutu be regarded "not only as a gesture of support to him and to the South African Council of Churches of which he is leader, but also to all individuals and groups in South Africa who, with their concern for human dignity, fraternity and democracy, incite the admiration of the world."
At the award presentation held in Norway in December the chairman of the Nobel Committee says, "Some time ago television enabled us to see this year's laureate in a suburb of Johannesburg. A massacre of the black population had just taken place - the camera showed ruined houses, mutilated human beings and crushed children's toys. Innocent people had been murdered. Women and children mortally wounded. But, after the police vehicles had driven away with their prisoners, Desmond Tutu stood and spoke to a frightened and bitter congregation: 'Do not hate', he said, 'let us choose the peaceful way to freedom'."
The apartheid regime refuses to acknowledge the award.
Meanwhile, the National Party introduces a new constitution in an attempt to stem dissent. However, the constitution, which establishes three racially segregated houses of parliament, for whites, Asians, and coloureds, but excludes blacks from full citizenship, has the opposite effect and is denounced as a continuation of apartheid.
1985 - Tutu is installed as Johannesburg's first black Anglican bishop.
Conflict and violence escalate. In 1984 there are 174 fatalities linked to political unrest. In 1985 the number rises to 879. Capital begins to flee the country. Forty US companies pull out of South Africa in 1984. Another 50 leave in 1985. Inflation rises and standards of living drop.
The government declares states of emergency in various parts of the country; the first time the emergency laws have been used since the Sharpeville massacre of 1960. The laws allow police to arrest without warrant and to detain people indefinitely without charge and without notification to lawyers or next of kin. Censorship of the media is also extended.
1986 - Tutu is elected as the first black archbishop of Cape Town, becoming the head of the Anglican church in South Africa and leader of South Africa's 1.6 million Anglicans. While serving in this position he intensifies his criticism of apartheid.
In October the US Congress passes legislation implementing mandatory sanctions against South Africa. All new investments and bank loans are banned, air links between the US and South Africa are terminated and the importation of many South African products is stopped.
1987 - While the union movement becomes increasingly militant, with the number of days lost to strikes reaching 5.8 million in 1987, armed members of the ANC and PAC stage raids on South Africa from their bases in Angola, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.
The regime responds by renewing a series of states of emergency, unleashing its police, and sending its military forces on counter-strike raids.
Media restrictions are tightened and the UDF and other activist organisations are effectively banned.
As a result opprobrium for the regime grows around the world. More foreign investors withdraw, banks call in loans, the currency collapses, economic production declines and inflation becomes chronic.
Meanwhile, Tutu is elected as president of the All Africa Conference of Churches. The following year he is made chancellor of the University of the Western Cape.
1988 - In May South African President P.W. Botha, a National Party hardliner, directs the head of his intelligence service, Niel Barnard, to meet secretly with Mandela in prison to discuss the possibility of a peace settlement. More than 60 similar meetings will follow.
On 31 August the Johannesburg headquarters of South African Council of Churches is bombed. The building, which is also a base for several other antiapartheid groups, is destroyed and 21 people injured. It is later revealed that the bombing was carried out by the police on the orders of Botha.
1989 - The "secret" talks between Mandela and the government culminate with a face-to-face meeting between Mandela and Botha at Botha's presidential office on 5 July.
Botha subsequently resigns following a stroke and is replaced by F.W. de Klerk, a moderate within the National Party.
Mandela meets with de Klerk in December. Negotiations on the terms and conditions for Mandela's release begin.
1990 - On 2 February de Klerk announces that Mandela will be released. He also rescinds the orders banning the ANC, the PAC, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and other previously illegal organisations. Restrictions on the UDF and the media are lifted. Mandela is finally released from prison on Sunday 11 February.
In June Mandela and de Klerk met officially for the first time. In August Mandela announces the suspension of the ANC's armed struggle. In October the government repeals the law requiring the races to use separate amenities.
1991 - By April, 933 of the country's estimated 2,500 political prisoners have been released. On 5 June the government repeals the law making it illegal for Africans to own land in urban areas and the law segregating people by race. A new law allows all races equal rights to own property anywhere in the country. The law assigning every resident of South Africa to a specific racial group is repealed on 17 June. The international community responds by lifting most of the sanctions on South Africa.
1992 - White South African's overwhelmingly vote "yes" in a referendum asking if the reform of apartheid should be continued. In September, following a request by Mandela, 400 political prisoners are released.
1993 - The negotiations on the transition conclude towards the end of the year. It is agreed that a five-year 'Government of National Unity' with a majority-rule constitution will be formed following South Africa's first truly multiracial democratic election, scheduled for April 1994.
The new constitution guarantees all South Africans "equality before the law and equal protection of the law", full political rights, freedom of expression and assembly, and the right to "choose a place of residence anywhere in the national territory."
1994 - The ANC wins the country's first all-race elections.
Over four days beginning on 26 April more than 22 million South Africans, or about 91% of registered voters, go to the polls.
The ANC secures nearly 63% of the vote, missing the two-thirds majority needed to unilaterally change the constitution. The National Party gets about 20% of the vote, becoming the second largest party in the parliament. On 9 May the National Assembly unanimously elects Mandela president.
Mandela is inaugurated on 10 May at a ceremony in Pretoria, the South African capital. In his inaugural address he stresses the need for reconciliation and reaffirms his determination to create a peaceful, nonracial society.
The ministry of the new government includes blacks, whites, Afrikaners, Indians, coloureds, Muslims, Christians, communists, liberals and conservatives.
In June the government announces that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission will investigate human rights abuses and political crimes committed by both supporters and opponents of apartheid between 1960 and 10 May 1994. The commission is also empowered to consider amnesty for those who confess their participation in atrocities and to recommend compensation to survivors and their dependants.
1995 - Guidelines are set for the operation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Tutu is appointed as the commission's chair. "I hope that the work of the commission, by opening wounds to cleanse them, will thereby stop them from festering," he says.
"We cannot be facile and say bygones will be bygones, because they will not be bygones and will return to haunt us. True reconciliation is never cheap, for it is based on forgiveness, which is costly. Forgiveness in turn depends on repentance, which has to be based on an acknowledgement of what was done wrong, and therefore on disclosure of the truth. You cannot forgive what you do not know."
1996 - In March the commission begins hearing testimony by both victims and perpetrators of apartheid-era violence. Tutu retires as archbishop in June to devote himself to his role on the commission, although he is granted the honorary title of archbishop emeritus. He presides over the commission as it hears about 20,000 testimonials and receives nearly 4,000 applications for amnesty.
A new South African constitution that bars discrimination against the country's minorities, including whites, is signed into law by Mandela on 10 December. The new constitution contains a bill of rights and ends the Government of National Unity. The ANC takes government in its own right. The National Party becomes the opposition.
1998 - The Truth and Reconciliation Commission issues its interim report in October. The report states that apartheid is a crime against humanity but also criticises the ANC for human rights abuses.
Tutu steps down as the commission's chair.
With his wife he sets up the Desmond Tutu Peace Trust to research and establish a nondenominational Peace Centre.
1999 - The ANC wins the general election held on 2 June, increasing its majority.
2002 - In January Tutu weighs in on the debate about the political situation in Zimbabwe, saying President Robert Mugabe "seems to have gone bonkers in a big way."
"It is very dangerous when you subvert the rule of law in your country, when you don't even respect the judgements of your judges ... then you are on the slippery slope of perdition," Tutu says.
"It is a great sadness what has happened to President Mugabe. He was one of Africa's best leaders, a bright spark, a debonair, well-spoken and well-read person."
During the year Tutu also accuses Israel of using apartheid policies against the Palestinians, saying that he was "very deeply distressed" and that the situation reminded him "so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa."
2003 - On 5 January Tutu joins the growing number of world figures critical of plans by the administrations of US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to launch a preemptive, unilateral attack on Iraq.
Blair's support for the Bush administration is "mind-boggling" and it is saddening to see the US being "aided and abetted" by Britain, Tutu says.
"When does compassion, when does morality, when does caring come in?" Tutu asks, "I just hope that one day people will realise that peace is a far better path to follow."
The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is handed down on 21 March.
In April the government announces that victims of apartheid who testified before the commission will receive a once-off compensation payment of about US$4,000.
2004 - At the end of January Tutu appeals to the US court system to allow victims of apartheid to lodge claims for compensation against foreign companies that continued to operate in South Africa after the UN and the US imposed sanctions against the country.
In an eight-page affidavit Tutu says he would "support the rights of victims to seek redress in any country in the world where courts do have such jurisdiction."
"It makes no sense to suppose that suits filed in foreign jurisdictions that seek to hold foreign companies accountable for their collaborations with a prior regime, would discourage foreign investors from sending capital into that country in the future," he says.
The South African Government and former President Nelson Mandela oppose the proposed lawsuits.
On 16 February, delivering the Longford Lecture in Britain, Tutu adds to his earlier criticism of the US and British invasion of Iraq, saying that a dangerous principle had been produced where preemptive attacks could be launched "on the basis of intelligence reports that in one particular instance have been shown can be dangerously flawed."
"An immoral war was thus waged and the world is a great deal less safe place than before," he says.
Tutu calls for "restorative justice" in Iraq, pointing to the experience of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Presenting the second Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture on 23 November, Tutu warns that the South African Government's policy of black economic empowerment, under which black businessmen and politicians are given large shares of South African corporations, could be "building up much resentment which we may rue later."
"What is black empowerment when it seems to benefit not the vast majority but an elite that tends to be recycled?" he asks.
"We were involved in the struggle (against apartheid) because we believed we would evolve a new kind of society: a caring, a compassionate society. At the moment many, too many, of our people live in gruelling, demeaning and dehumanising poverty. We are sitting on a powder keg."
Tutu says that while South Africa continues to be seen as a "beacon of hope" by the international community, more needs to be done to redress social inequalities.
He also criticises the South African Government for stifling political debate. "We should debate more openly, not using emotive language, issues such as affirmative action, transformation in sport, racism, xenophobia, security, crime, violence against women and children," he says.
"We want our society to be characterised by vigorous debate and dissent, where to disagree is part and parcel of a vibrant community ... and not think that those who disagree, who express dissent, are disloyal or unpatriotic."
In response South African President Thabo Mebeki says, "It would be good if those that present themselves as the greatest defenders of the poor should also demonstrate decent respect for the truth, rather than resort to empty rhetoric."
Tutu replies, "Thank you, Mr President, for telling me what you think of me. That I am a liar with scant regard for the truth, and a charlatan posing with his concern for the poor, the hungry, the oppressed and the voiceless."
2005 - The National Party, which introduced the apartheid system after coming to government in 1948, officially disbands on 9 April. The party had received less than two percent of the vote at general elections held in 2004.
In September Tutu and former Czech President Vaclav Havel release a report detailing reasons why the UN Security Council should pressure the military government of Burma to implement political reforms.
"Based on our review of this report and its recommendations, we strongly urge the UN Security Council to take up the situation of Burma immediately," the two leaders jointly state in the foreword to the 70-page report.
"Quiet, closed-door meetings among countries in New York are no longer enough. It is time for the UN Security Council to act," Tutu says.
On 16 December Tutu marks South Africa's official reconciliation day and the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by saying that too many human rights abusers from the apartheid era were allowed to escape justice.
According to Tutu, the failure to prosecute abusers who boycotted the commission left a legacy of impunity. "It does mean that there are those who are able to say, 'Ha ha ha, what can you do to us?', and it makes people possibly have slightly less regard for the rule of law," Tutu says.
2006 - At the start of March Tutu and six others, including Vaclav Havel, publish a denunciation of Russian policy in a Czech daily newspaper. Publication of the article is timed to coincide with a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Czech Republic.
"How much longer will we play blind as the Russian Government, raising the bogeyman of terrorism, obliterates the freedoms gained after the fall of the Soviet empire?" the article asks.
"A capital (Grozny, the capital of Chechnya) has been destroyed before out eyes, for the first time since Hitler punished Warsaw in 1944. ...
"Such an inhumane act cannot be disguised with the 'war against terrorism' label."
2007 - On 31 January Tutu is presented with the International Gandhi Peace Prize for 2005. The prize, which is awarded by the Government of India, is considered to be India's highest international honour.
The same month he criticises South Africa for failing to vote for a UN Security Council resolution demanding an end to human rights abuses in Burma.
"It is a betrayal of our own noble past," he says of the action. "If others had used the arguments we are using today when we asked them for their support against apartheid, we might still have been unfree."
In April and May Tutu calls on African nations to condemn Zimbabwe for the human rights abuses taking place there.
On 27 June, while launching the Tutu Foundation UK in London, he advises the media to be more cautious when reporting on the role of religion in conflict.
"I would hope that you in the media would be passionate about letting people judge for themselves, that you would be careful about some of the language that you do actually use," he says.
"'Muslim terrorism' - have you ever read anywhere 'Christian terrorism'? - as if Islam propagates violence, but you have never spoken about what happened in Northern Ireland as Christian terrorism.
"Fundamentally there is no faith that I know that propagates violence, that says it's a good thing to oppress anybody. ...
"We Christians ought to get off our high horse and learn to be a great deal more humble, when you look at our history, the bloody things that we did in the name of religion."
At the start of September Tutu publicly criticises the South African Government for its tardiness in dealing with the HIV-AIDS epidemic plaguing the country.
2008 - At the end of May Tutu travels to Gaza on a UN mission to investigate the killing of 21 Palestinian civilians by Israeli shelling in November 2006.
"All we had heard about conditions in Gaza - deprivation, a sense or despair, the lack of economic activity - had not prepared us for the stark reality which we saw," Tutu says of his visit to Gaza, which has been blockaded by Israel since the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) took control of the area in June 2007.
"The entire situation is abominable. I believe the ordinary Israeli citizens would not support this blockade if they knew what it really meant to ordinary people like themselves. ... My message to the international community is that our silence and complicity, especially on the situation in Gaza, shames us all. It is almost like the behaviour of the military junta in Burma."
Tutu also calls on Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel, describing the practice as a "gross violation of human rights."
At the end of June, Tutu returns to the issue of Robert Mugabe's rule of Zimbabwe, calling on the African Union to reject the results of a highly compromised presidential election that saw Mugabe returned for a sixth term.
"That crisis has to be resolved sooner rather than later," Tutu says. "I think that a very good argument can be made for having an international force to restore peace."
Meanwhile Tutu, along with other world leaders, calls on the European Union to send troops to defend civilians caught up in ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
2010 - Tutu officially retires from public life on 7 October. "I have done as much as I can and need time to do things I have really wanted to do," Tutu had said in July.
"I do want a little more quiet. ... The time has now come to slow down, to sip Rooibos tea with my beloved wife in the afternoons, to watch cricket, to travel to visit my children and grandchildren, rather than to conferences and conventions and university campuses."
Nevertheless, just 19 days after retiring Tutu issues a statement calling on the Cape Town Opera to postpone a planned trip to Israel.
"Just as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa in a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity, so it would be wrong for Cape Town Opera to perform in Israel," the statement says.
"Cape Town Opera should postpone its proposed tour next month until both Israeli and Palestinian opera lovers of the region have equal opportunity and unfettered access to attend performances."
2012 - In August, Tutu pulls out of The Discovery Invest Summit to be held in Johannesburg because he does not want to share a platform with Tony Blair, the former British prime minister who supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
A statement from Tutu's office says, "The Discovery Invest Summit has leadership as its theme. Morality and leadership are indivisible. In this context, it would be inappropriate for the Archbishop to share a platform with Mr Blair."
In an op-ed piece published in 'The Observer' on 2 September, Tutu elaborates on his decision, saying that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was "immoral" and that "in a consistent world", those responsible for the suffering and loss of life that followed "should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in the Hague."
The next day, and in the wake of the Marikana mine massacre where 34 striking mine workers were gunned down by police, Tutu upbraids the South African Government for its failures.
"In 2012?," Tutu asks of the shooting. "In a democracy? In a new South Africa? Have we forgotten so soon? Marikana felt like a nightmare, but that is what our democracy is in 2012. ...
"Is this the kind of freedom people were tortured and people were maimed for? I ask myself, why were we in the struggle? The highest price was paid or freedom, but are we treating it as something precious?
"People are going to sleep hungry in this freedom for which people were tortured and harmed. ... It is difficult to believe people are getting such money and benefits, and are driving such flashy cars while the masses suffer in cramped shacks."
2013 - Tutu travels to Burma at the end of February. It is his first visit to the country where, partially due to his advocacy, political reforms have been gradually implemented, including the release from house arrest of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi in 2010.
Tutu meets Suu Kyi shortly after his arrival, saying while it was wonderful to be in Burma he was also looking forward to when the country was truly free. Talking about recent persecution of Burma's Rohingya Muslims, Tutu warns the Burmese Government against slipping into "a new apartheid."
In April, Tutu is awarded the 2013 Templeton Prize. The prize "honours a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works." It is one of the world's leading religious awards and comes with a US$1.7 million endowment.
In May, Tutu states that he will no longer vote for the ruling African National Congress. Writing in an editorial published in South Africa's 'Globe and Mail' newspaper, Tutu says, "It is a very huge ache, for oldies like me to see our country deteriorating and slowly sliding off what we thought belonged to us - the moral high ground."
In July, Tutu gives his support to a UN-backed campaign for gay rights in South Africa, saying he would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. "No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place. I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this. I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level."
Nelson Mandela dies on 5 December. Remembering his friend, Tutu says, "He awed everyone as a spectacular embodiment of magnanimity and forgiveness, and he saved our land from the bloodbath that most had predicted would be our lot in resolving the problem, of apartheid's vicious oppression of the vast majority of our motherland's population. Suffering can embitter, but it can also ennoble, and God blessed us richly when the latter happened in Madiba's case."
Tutu is initially excluded from the program at Mandela's funeral, presumably because of his falling out with the ANC. He is only invited at the last minute, following a public outcry.
2014 - Tutu begins a busy year of public comments by condemning Uganda's proposed law against homosexuality in February. He calls for a boycott and disinvestment campaign against the fossil fuel industry in March, saying that carbon emissions from the industry are driving global warming and it "makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future."
Also in March he returns to his disillusionment with the ANC, saying he is glad Nelson Mandela is no longer alive to see what his successors in the ANC are doing with the country.
Tutu comments on the issue of assisted death in July. He says laws preventing people being helped to end their lives with dignity are an affront and calls for a "mind shift" in the right to die debate.
"I have been fortunate to spend my life working for dignity for the living. Now I wish to apply my mind to the issue of dignity for the dying. I revere the sanctity of life - but not at any cost," he says.
2015 - Tutu is hospitalised several times between July and September for treatment of a persistent infection. His daughter, the Rev. Mpho Tutu, tells the media the infection is a result of the treatment he has been receiving for prostate cancer. Tutu was first diagnosed with the cancer in 1997.
Meanwhile, Tutu launches a petition urging global leaders to act against climate change by abandoning fossil fuels and switching to 100% renewable energy by 2050.
2016 - Tutu is readmitted to hospital in August for treatment for his recurring infection. He undergoes a minor surgical procedure and is released after three weeks. He is back in hospital just days later when his surgical wound shows signs of infection.
Tutu revisits the subject of assisted dying in October, writing, "Dying people should have the right to choose how and when they leave Mother Earth. I believe that, alongside the wonderful palliative care that exists, their choices should include a dignified assisted death."
In December Tutu is one of 23 signatories to a letter urging the UN Security Council to act to stop the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Burma. Calling the situation in Burma "a human tragedy amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity," the letter criticises Burma's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi for her failure to "take any initiative to ensure full and equal citizenship rights of the Rohingyas."
Nelson Mandela once said, "Sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid and seldom without humour, Desmond Tutu's voice will always be the voice of the voiceless."
One of the enduring memories of the struggle to end apartheid is Tutu's high-pitched yet melodious voice admonishing the regime and the world to end the discrimination. The resistance was often brutal but Tutu retained a lightness to his approach that always extended a hand of forgiveness and reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has become the model for other communities around the world trying to heal the fractures of social injustice.