As a prominent black priest, he became involved in racial segregation, but he always said that he was involved in religion, not politics.
Nelson Mandela has been appointed head of a conference that investigates racial violence in South Africa.
It was the first country in South Africa to be razed to the ground by racial segregation.
Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born in 1931 in the gold-mining town of Transvaal.
He initially followed in his father’s footsteps to become a teacher, but left the profession after the 1953 Bantu Education Act, in which racism was introduced in schools.
He joined the church and followed the lead of the white clergy, especially Bishop Trevor Huddleston, who opposed racism.
After beginning his career as a priest, Tutu received degrees of divinity and sociology from the University of London, and for a short time served as a priest at two temples in England.
Shortly afterwards in England with the World Council of Churches he became the first high priest of Johannesburg in 1975.
He served as bishop of Lesotho from 1976 to 78, second vice bishop of Johannesburg and a member of the parish in Soweto before becoming bishop of Johannesburg.
It was during his tenure as high priest that he began speaking out against racism in South Africa.