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Tutu meets Tutu and cracks up!

Updated on October 7, 2014

The man who likes to raise a laugh

“When we stop taking ourselves too seriously we will be showing just how we have grown. It's when you are hypersensitive about your dignity and all of this.” - Desmond Tutu

Everyone who has read my Hubs will know that I am a great admirer of that man in the “pink dress” (as the late, great Nelson Mandela once called him), otherwise known as “The Arch”, or simply, “Arch”.

To give him his full moniker, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, the Most Reverend Desmond Mpilo Tutu, is known for his puckish and sometimes even slightly naughty humour. Tutu has poked fun at himself and, sometimes, at others, and is known for not taking himself too seriously.

When Zimbabwe was known as Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, the late Bishop Abel Muzorewa was in Ian Smith's “rebel” Cabinet ruling that sad country. Muzorewa was widely regarded as a sell out by the liberation movements and blacks in Southern Africa were not too highly impressed with him for joining the Smith regime.

Tutu used to tell the story with great gusto and amusement of a flight he took from Durban to Johannesburg at that time on which he sat next to an elderly white lady who greeted him effusively at the start of the flight, and chatted away with him all the way through the flight. Tutu said he was starting to think things were really changing if a white woman could be so friendly to him at a time when most of white South Africa saw him as some kind of revolutionary, as an anti-white rabble-rouser. The bubble burst at the end of the flight, when they were disembarking, and she turned to him and asked, “You are Bishop Muzorewa, aren't you!”

Tutu has a fund of tales like that, which he loves to regale people with. He seldom fails to raise a good laugh when he tells his stories.

Turning the tables on Tutu

Recently though, the tables were turned on him when the people from Zanews visited Tutu in his Cape Town offices.

Zanews is the brainchild of cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (also known as Zapiro - whom Tutu has called the sharpest of nibs) and his colleague Thierry Cassuto. It is a puppet show, an “alternative” news show, which pokes some sharp nibs at the politics and politicians of South Africa.

In 2007 Zanews approached the public broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) for a programme slot. Initially the SABC agreed, but later Zanews was denied the slot.. Zanews was then in 2009 with the help of an airline and the weekly Mail and Guardian, Zanews got a new lease of life on the Internet.

Recently the Zanews “news team” went to Tutu's offices in Cape Town to “interview” him – the accompanying videos are the result of that “interview” - which I find hilarious.

For each video I will provide a short commentary, just to help non-South Africans with some of the names and issues with which they might not be familiar so as to help viewers understand the jokes which point at some particular South African situation.

Video One: Are you going to offer me some tea?

Julius Malema who is mentioned in the video was at the time the National President of the African National Congress Youth League (Malema was later expelled from the ANC and has subsequently founded his own party called the Economic Freedom Fighters). He is famous for putting his foot firmly in his mouth and then denying that it is there, in spite of the fact that everyone else can see it. The Youth League has a long and honourable history, having been founded in the late 1940s by such luminaries as former president Nelson Mandela, and his comrades Walter Sisulu and Anton Lembede.

The video ends with the other Tutu saying “I'm sharp-sharp!” This is a South African expression meaning roughly A-OK.

Video Two: Morgan Freeman is too tall!

Besides Graca Machel, Mandela in this clip calls for his Personal Assistant, Zelda le Grange who has been his devoted helper for more than ten years. She is a young Afrikaans speaking woman. Typical of Mandela to have as his closest helpers a Mozambican lady and an Afrikaner. Diversity practised as much as preached!

Video Three: Godzilla, the lady with balls!

Tutu (the real one) mentions Helen Zille as one of the characters he likes in Zanews. Zille is the leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance and also Premier of the Western Cape Province, of which Cape Town is the capital. Because of her strength as a politician, and her no-nonsense approach, the press has nick-named her, a little unkindly, “Godzilla.” The reference to “my friend Trevor” is to former Minster in the Presidency Trevor Manuel.

Tutu's appearance at the 2010 Soccer World Cup Kick-Off Concert is referenced here. The video clip of his appearance is in the video capsule below.

Video Four: iPad or iPhone?

Tutu the puppet makes fun of the isiXhosa language of Tutu. Many nouns in isiXhosa have the prefix “i-” and it is quite common in the language when there is no equivalent word in isiXhosa to use the English word with the “i-”prefix.

Video Five: democracy and not taking ourselves too seriously

This video shows Desmond in typical teaching mode. He gets quite serious, though thankfully the seriousness doesn't last too long!

He says, “In many ways it shows how mature you are as a democracy when you allow people to poke fun at you, at yourselves, not taking ourselves too seriously. And sometimes wonderful truths, or painful truths, can be communicated through the medium of things like you (meaning the puppet Tutu).”

Video Six: have you ever scored a goal?

The reason the mention of former president Thabo Mbeki causes such mirth is that there was a rumour that the SABC had banned the mention of his name on air. This has since been denied and he has in fact been mentioned quite often recently. Tutu (the real one!) is known to have been an Mbeki supporter and is known to be somewhat disenchanted with present president Jacob Zuma.

A fantastic human being

I hope readers have found these videos as funny and enjoyable as I do. I think they show Tutu as the fantastic human being he is, full of humour and yet with an undying commitment to people.

Copyright Notice

The text and all images on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are by Tony McGregor who hereby asserts his copyright on the material. Should you wish to use any of the text or images feel free to do so with proper attribution and, if possible, a link back to this page. Thank you.

© Tony McGregor 2010


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    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      LTR - thanks for stopping by and commenting. Tutu has a wonderful sense of humour and really enjoys a good laugh!

      Love and peace


    • Loves To Read profile image

      Loves To Read 

      8 years ago

      Tonymac04 very well put together hub. Desmond Tutu is most certainly a wonderful and highly respected man. It was beautiful that he gave recognition to Nelson Mandela as he played such a major role in their freedom. What a fabulous sense of humour Desmond Tutu has. I loved it.

      Peace and Blessings

    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Martie- vir jou is daar mos altyd 'n ietsie! Baie dankie vir die besoek and for leaving a fun comment!

      Love and peace


    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Tonymac – Today, 9 August, you’ve made my “Woman’s Day’, forcing me to start it l*a*u*g*h*i*’n*g! Those video’s are hilarious. LMAO! Yes, Tutu deserves nothing but all our respect and admiration. Thanks for a great hub! You are an ambassador par excellence for our country. Ek is 'n bietjie laat vir die party, hoop hier's nog 'n glasie vonkelwyn oor vir my? :-)

    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Gulnazahmad - thanks for your kind comment. I appreciate it.



    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Interesting and funny too;-)

    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Oh Barbara, thank you so much. Sorry I have been a bit swamped with all sorts of things as well as trying to get a rather difficult Hub writte!

      This evening on the news we heard that Desmond had a press conference today to announce that he is "retiring" - I guess this is the third or fourth time he's doing that! Anyway we definitely shall miss him, though I suspect he will still get quite a lot of coverage.

      Thanks for your concern and the exact same thought had been in my mind for some days now - how would we know if something bad happened to a Hub friend? Like when my good friend Charlie (Ralwus) went awol the other day and nobody knew what had happened to him. Luckily he's back, and so am I - like the proverbial bad penny!

      Hugs to you, dear friend.

      Love and peace


    • Storytellersrus profile image


      8 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Funny, the connections we make online. I was concerned that you hadn't revisited this hub. It got me thinking, how would I know if a hub friend became ill or went on holiday? I missed you, Barbara

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      8 years ago

      "What a beautiful Dream!" -everyone playing soccer in the cradle of civilization! The videos were fantastic!

    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Coolmon - thanks and glad to have introduced you to this great show.

      Twin - he is indeed a beautiful and charming man!

      Camelia - sorry the humour doesn't really translate well, but thanks for the comment and glad you got something out of the Hub.

      Dimitris - thank you for the comment. That was a wonderful moment in the Kick-Off Concert. Had me in stitches and at the same time in awe.

      Dim - thanks for visiting and commenting. We have had a lot of trying times in South Africa but somehow never lost the ability to laugh, thank God!

      ZB - thank you. And I am very well, thanks! Hope you are also!

      Amillar - yes, the colours and the clothing help to brighten our days!

      Valerie - Ha, Ha! yes indeed! I like that - "the other man!" LOL!

      Ruby - thanks for coming by. As I mentioned above - we have had much sorrow in South Africa but have managed somehow to maintain the ability to laugh!

      Barbara - we have actually 11 official languages here, but English is becoming teh "lingua franca". Hugs to you too dear friend.

      Francis - well, I think we do tend to look on the bright side, even where Malema's concerned, perhaps!

      Micky - you, dear sir, are very kind and I deeply appreciate your kindness! Glad you had some fun here!

      Nellieanna - thank you for your kind words. It has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to have known this man.

      Kaie - thank you kind lady! I appreciate your visit and the smile!

      Christine - I can bet that was a sight! Tutu himself has joked that he "walked on water!" But I have never heard of him swimming! Like Barabara I would like to see that!

      Thanks all for your kind comments.

      Love and peace


    • Storytellersrus profile image


      8 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      I would like to see that- Branson teaching Tutu to swim, lol. That laugh might get Tutu in trouble underwater!

    • mulberry1 profile image

      Christine Mulberry 

      8 years ago

      He's pretty kooky. I saw a show, I believe it was about efforts to end poverty or something. Anyway, he was working with an international group that included people like Jimmy Carter and Richard Branson (Virgin Mobile, Virgin Record, Virgin Airlines...). When Branson and Tutu were together things got really weird. I guess I thought Tutu was funny and Branson was just a bit odd at times. At some point Branson was trying to teach him to swim.. Quite a sight in itself.

    • Kaie Arwen profile image

      Kaie Arwen 

      8 years ago

      The videos had me laughing........... thanks for this :-D You got a smile! I Kaie

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      8 years ago from TEXAS

      I loved it! The videos were contagious. Tbat cackling laugh of his is irresistablle and somehow the whole humor of it came through for me. He's very witty too. That "caustic" bit was so funny - "yes - its costly" or whatever the exact words were . That was such good humor and it seems typical of how he is. I know his "alter-ego" was making it into a funny - but did you see how he guffawed at it, knowing it was so typical of himself. He does really love to laugh at himself.

      Loved the story about the white lady buttering him up on the flight, too, - thinking he was the other guy, Muzorewa, the white-sympathizer and he got such a kick out of it, I'll bet.

      Too bad Bill Cosby couldn't have played him in a movie about his life!

      This was fun! Thanks, Tony.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      8 years ago

      Very good Tony. I'm coming back for another view. Beautiful!

    • equealla profile image


      8 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      One of the things I adore about my people, they are always focussing rather on the bright side. If there is no bright side, they will create one!

      Good hub, Tony. I enjoyed watching. ( And you are rather kind on Malema, I must say!)

    • Storytellersrus profile image


      8 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      tonymac, it has been said humor is difficult to translate and I am afraid even with your translations, I did not feel part of the in-group on this one!

      I loved listening to The Arch's belly chortles and the way he was able to laugh at the mask representing him.

      Strangely, I was confused as to why it was all in English. I guess I did not realize English is the official tongue of South Africa. How dense is that? I thought there was an official African language in place.

      When we do not take ourselves too seriously, we can show how much we have grown, he says.

      This is brilliant and I certainly can relate to that one- and laugh, lol. Thanks for sharing your delight.

      Hugs on a cloudy day,


    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      8 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I enjoy reading about South Africa, it,s so different than i thought. The people seem happy.

      Great hub

      God Bless

    • valeriebelew profile image


      8 years ago from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA

      Oh, so the lady thought he was the other man. Did he correct her? I think I would have just let it pass. (:v

    • amillar profile image


      8 years ago from Scotland, UK

      You're lucky to have such colourful characters, (with such colourful clothing).

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      8 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Tony, what a great hub about a great man, I love it.

      hope you're well

      kindest regards Zsuzsy

    • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

      Dim Flaxenwick 

      8 years ago from Great Britain

      That was so interesting, but funny too. Thanks for sharing, Tony.

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      Right at the end, what a wonderful scene, with Archbisop Tutu paying tribute to Nelson Mandela and welcoming the world to the cradle of humanity. "What a wonderful dream"!

      Kashmar wonderful Tony :-)

    • cameciob profile image


      8 years ago

      Tony, even though I did not understood much from the video, I did learned few things about South Africa today. Thanks for sharing.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 

      8 years ago from Minnesota

      What a wonderful hub and informative and funny too. Thank you for sharing the wonderful videos. What a beautiful and charming man he is. Rated up and useful.

    • Coolmon2009 profile image


      8 years ago from Texas, USA

      I Haven't heard of ZA News before. I enjoyed reading your article and viewing the videos.I thank you for the introduction. Good article


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