Desmond Tutu resigns as Oxfam ambassador over ‘immorality’ claims

Archbishop ‘deeply disappointed’ by charity’s sex scandal, amid fresh turmoil as Oxfam admits it rehired worker previously sacked over misconduct in Haiti

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu said he was ‘saddened by the impact of the allegations on the many thousands of good people who have supported Oxfam’s righteous work’.
Photograph: Gallo Images/Getty Images

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has resigned as an ambassador for Oxfam, saying he is “deeply disappointed” about the charity’s sex scandal.

The South African, who was regarded as a key figure in the anti-apartheid movement, has retired as a church leader but still continues to work with the Elders – a group of senior international figures.

Tutu said in a statement that he had decided to resign following allegations of “immorality and possible criminality” at Oxfam.

Tutu’s resignation came amid fresh turmoil at the charity, which admitted on Thursday that it had rehired one of the workers it had sacked in a sexual misconduct scandal in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake.

In a statement, Tutu’s office said: “Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu has supported Oxfam International’s good work for many years, most recently as one of its global ambassadors.

“The archbishop is deeply disappointed by allegations of immorality and possible criminality involving humanitarian workers linked to the charity.

“He is also saddened by the impact of the allegations on the many thousands of good people who have supported Oxfam’s righteous work.”

His office added he had now written to the charity “to inform them of his retirement as a global ambassador”.

Tutu’s resignation over the scandal follows that of actor Minnie Driver, who gave up her own role as ambassador earlier this week.

Tutu’s decision came as the figure at the centre of the Oxfam scandal, the charity’s former country director for Haiti, denied some of the allegations against him in an open letter to a broadcaster in his native Belgium.

Roland van Hauwermeiren said in the letter he did not want to cast himself as a victim but feared that Oxfam, other aid workers and those they help would suffer from false accusations.

In the four-page letter, seen by Reuters, he accused an unnamed former employee of being the source of reports that have shaken the global humanitarian community and prompted Britain and the EU to review funding for Oxfam.

“I am not a saint. I am a man of flesh and blood and I have made mistakes (not easy to admit) and I am DEEPLY ASHAMED,” the 68-year-old former soldier wrote in Dutch to broadcaster VTM.

The atmosphere of chaos swirling around Oxfam also deepened as the organisation admitted a “serious error” in rehiring one of those accused of sexual misconduct as a consultant in Ethiopia.

The man was one of several staff who were sacked or resigned in 2011 over a string of lurid claims, including that they had used prostitutes while delivering aid to Haiti.

The agency said in a statement it had identified that “one of those dismissed by Oxfam as a result of the sexual misconduct case in Haiti” was “subsequently hired by Oxfam as a consultant in Ethiopia”.

Hiring the man “even in an emergency as a short-term consultant” was a “serious error and should never have happened”, it continued.

“We are still checking how this occurred but it further highlights that we need an organisation and sector-wide approach to the vetting and recruitment of both staff and consultants, especially in emergencies where there is pressure to fill posts quickly in order to help save lives.”

The charity is now checking whether there were “any issues” while the man was posted in Ethiopia.