Here is a selection of his memorable quotes on a variety of topics:
Be nice to the whites, they need you to rediscover their humanity – October 1984
I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of human rights – January 1985
Your president is the pits as far as blacks are concerned. I think the West, for my part, can go to hell – July 1986, when US President Ronald Reagan opposed sanctions proposals
Unbanning of ANC
He [South Africa President FW De Klerk] has taken my breath away – February 1990
Coining “The Rainbow Nation”
At home in South Africa I have sometimes said in big meetings where you have black and white together: “Raise your hands!”
Then I have said: “Move your hands,” and I’ve said, “Look at your hands – different colours representing different people.
“You are the Rainbow People of God.” – December 1991
Resentment and anger are bad for your blood pressure and your digestion – January 2000
Perpetrators don’t have horns, don’t have tails, they are as ordinary looking as you and I. The people who supported Hitler were not demons, they were often very respectable people – February 2006
Who in their right mind could have believed South Africa could be an example of anything but the most awful ghastliness? We are such an unlikely lot – January 2000
Zimbabwe’s leader Robert Mugabe
He’s almost a caricature of all the things people think black African leaders do. He seems to be wanting to make a cartoon of himself – April 2000
People are scared in this country [the US] to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful – very powerful.
The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists.
Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosovic, and Idi Amin were all powerful, but in the end they bit the dust – April 2002
One time I was in San Francisco when a lady rushed up, very warmly greeted me, and said, “Hello Archbishop Mandela.” Sort of getting two for the price of one – March 2004
South Africa’s future
At the moment many, too many, of our people live in gruelling, demeaning and dehumanising poverty. We are sitting on a powder keg – November 2004
Spat with South Africa’s then-President Thabo Mbeki
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 – November 2004
His [Nelson Mandela's] sartorial taste is the pits!
He’s such a lovely guy, but he was nasty to me when I publicly commented on it. He said the critique was pretty amusing coming from a man who wears a dress – October 2006
This is something that can unite us.
We have 11 different official languages but only one word for the wonderful institution of braai (barbecue): in Xhosa, English, Afrikaans, whatever – September 2007
Homosexuality and the Church
If God, as they say, is homophobic, I wouldn’t worship that God – November 2007
The Nobel Peace Prize
A kid asked me a few years ago, “What do you do to get the prize?”
I said, “It’s very easy, you just need three things – you must have an easy name, like Tutu for example, you must have a large nose and you must have sexy legs.” – July 2009