Eighteen-year-old South African Climate Justice Activist from Cape Town, Ayakha Melithafa says no one is going to survive climate change if action is not taken now.

Melithafa is one of the speakers who will participate in the 10th Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture on Wednesday, which also marks the 89th birthday of the Archbishop. The lecture will take place virtually for the first time due to COVID-19 protocols.

Nine years ago, when he turned 80, the retired Archbishop could not celebrate his birthday with his best friend Tibetan Spiritual Leader, the 14th Dalai Lama, who delivered the inaugural peace lecture. Technology did not stop them from holding the Peace Lecture, which took place at the University of the Western Cape in 2011. The Dalai Lama communicated via video link.

Various political, business and other leaders of society delivered eight other lectures over the past eight years. They include President Cyril Ramaphosa, who delivered the 8th Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture in Cape Town in 2018, when he called on South Africans to develop what he called,  the Desmond Tutu Doctrine of Peace.

“Let us continue building the unity of our nation, conscience always of the fact that there will be no peace without equality and no reconciliation without justice. I want to conclude by suggesting that in honour of the outstanding work that Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has contributed in raising our consciousness as a people and as a nation about peace, we should develop a doctrine of peace that should guide us so that we can acquire and give full meaning to what peace should mean in our own country and indeed in the world,” Ramaphosa said in 2018.

The 9th annual lecture was delivered by philanthropist and London-based Zimbabwean-born billionaire, Strive Masiyiwa in Cape Town last year. Masiyiwa ended the 9th lecture by highlighting how trillions are lost annually to corruption.

“We have to fight corruption. 30-point-4 trillion dollars a year lost to corruption. Just think about that. Think of what we could do with that….. Thank you. May God Bless you, man of  God, Arch, servant of Jesus Christ. Thank you sir for this opportunity. God Bless you all.”

This year — the 10th  Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture will take place virtually with the focus on Climate Justice. South African climate justice activist, Ayakha Melithafa and Vanessa Nakate from Uganda, will participate in the peace lecture to highlight the concerns of young people, calling for action against climate change.

They will participate along with Global Climate change activist, Christiana Figueres, who was the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from 2010 to 2016.

According to the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation, “Greta Thunberg has withdrawn from speaking at the 10th Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture to be held on Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s 89th birthday on 7 October 2020. Thunberg will be replaced by the internationally recognised leader on climate change, Christiana Figueres.”

Melithafa, who became a climate Justice Activist following the drought in the Western Cape two years ago, is excited about being part of the 10th Peace Lecture.

“I will be introducing the speaker which is Vanessa Nakate. And it’s quite an opportunity for me to just raise awareness about climate justice that is desperately needed here in South Africa. And I understand that what a big platform this is, as it is the International Desmond (Tutu) Peace Lecture, and since he was the first person to actually lobby and advocate for fossil fuel divestment, it’s quite a powerful opportunity for us as young climate activists to push our agenda and make sure that our voices are heard in this journey trying to transition to a low carbon generation. So it is very important to me and it means a lot to me that I will be put up on this stage and raise awareness about how urgently we need climate justice in our country, in our continent, in our own world. And just  having this  opportunity to highlight the fact that young people are taking over and young people’s voices need to be  amplified on this stage and we need to be listened to and no one is going to survive it if we do not  take action right now.”

The 1984 Nobel Peace Laureate turns 89.

Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba extended best birthday wishes to Tutu.

“I just want to say to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu a happy blessed birthday to you. We love you. We pray for you. We hope that the Good Lord will continue to bless you with good health and for you to be around with us for a very long time. On behalf of my family, on behalf of the clergy, their spouses, your friends in the diocese of Cape Town and in Southern  Africa and the world over, I want to say ‘O gole-gole’ (grow older).  Happy Birthday Tata, God Bless.”

According to the Foundation, other dignitaries that will also send the Archbishop birthday messages include, “Former US Vice President and climate activist Al Gore, African human and environmental rights activist Kumi Naidoo, who was until 2019 secretary-general of Amnesty International, Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Mary Robinson, Zimbabwean businessman and philanthropist Strive Masiyiwa, environmental and human rights activist Mor Gilboa and Moulana Abdul Khaliq-Allie of the Muslim Judicial Council.”