JOHANNESBURG — (TNS) South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an anti-apartheid icon described as a “champion of universal human rights,” died on Sunday. He was 90.

“The passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is another chapter of bereavement in our nation’s farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in statement.

Tutu fought consistently for justice for South Africa’s black population under apartheid, and spoke for peace and reconciliation after the end of the white supremacist regime in the nineties.

The Nobel Prize winner “distinguished himself as a non-sectarian, inclusive champion of universal human rights,” Ramaphosa said.

“The loss of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu is immeasurable,” said the Nelson Mandela foundation of South Africa’s first black president. 

“He was larger than life, and for so many in South Africa and around the world his life has been a blessing.”

Known by his nickname the Arch, Tutu was a constant figure at key points in South African history.

The Mandela foundation pointed out that “it was Tutu who held aloft Madiba’s hand on the balcony of Cape Town’s City Hall on 9 May 1994 and presented him to the assembled throngs as the country’s new ‘out of the box’ president.”

He was later appointed by Mandela as the head of the landmark Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The Anglican archbishop of Cape Town was “one of the great spirits and moral giants of our age,” the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation said. 

“Tutu was a living embodiment of faith in action, speaking boldly against racism, injustice, corruption, and oppression, not just in apartheid South Africa but wherever in the world he saw wrongdoing,” the foundation said.