Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has announced his intention to wind down his public engagements, when he turns 79 in October.
“I think I have done as much as I can, and I really do need time for other things that I have wanted to do,” Tutu told a 22 July media briefing at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town. He also thanked South Africans for their contribution to the world.
Archbishop Tutu became the first black general secretary of the South African Council of Churches in 1978, and then in 1986 the first black Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, a post from which he retired in 1996.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 and he chaired South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated human rights violations in the apartheid era.
The archbishop said the time had come to devote his time to quiet reflection, his family and reading.
“I will shut up but sometimes I might not be able to resist,” said Archbishop Tutu, who is known for his pronouncements on issues of peace and justice the world over.
He said he would honour all existing appointments but would not add any new engagements to his schedule, and that he would limit his working time to one day a week until his office winds down in February 2011.
Archbishop Tutu said he will continue working with the Elders – a group of retired statespeople who seek to support peacemaking initiatives and mediate in crises – and supporting the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre. Still, he will step down as chancellor of the University of the Western Cape, and as a representative on the U.N.’s advisory committee on the prevention of genocide.
“Time has now come to slow down, sip Rooibos tea with my wife in the afternoon, watch cricket, and travel to visit children and grandchildren rather than to conferences and conventions and university campuses,” Archbishop Tutu told journalists.
In his remarks, he also praised the contribution of South Africans and said he wanted to see a country, “that is caring, compassionate, gentle, sharing”.
“We surprised ourselves in how we accomplished the World Cup with panache,” he said. “We really are amazing … welcoming the world as we did and being able to be so efficient.”
The retired Anglican cleric said he hoped that South Africa, “will become the country we have it in ourselves to become, a caring, not hugely successful, but one in which every South Africans feels they matter”.