CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu announced Thursday he is retiring from public life later this year when he turns 79, saying “the time has come to slow down” and spend more time with his family.
The former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town said after his birthday on Oct. 7 he will limit his time in the office to one day per week until February 2011.
“Instead of growing old gracefully, at home with my family reading and writing and praying and thinking too much of my time has been spent at airports and in hotels,” Tutu said in a statement Thursday. “The time has now come to slow down, to sip Rooibos tea with my beloved wife in the afternoons, to watch cricket, to travel to visit my children and grandchildren, rather than to conferences and conventions and university campuses.”
In recent weeks, Tutu appeared at several World Cup events. He gave a speech to thunderous applause at the tournament’s opening concert and was also seen dancing in his seat at the VIP section at the opening ceremony.
It is Tutu who labeled South Africa the “rainbow nation of God” to celebrate its diverse cultures.
He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, then used his new international stature to step up the campaign against apartheid. Tutu led calls for punitive sanctions against South Africa, remaining one of the few strong voices inside the country while other activists were imprisoned or forced to operate abroad.
He was ever-present during the turbulent final years of apartheid and the ensuing transition to majority rule, praying and sermonizing after massacres and then heading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. For more than two years the panel listened to people testifying about torture, killings and other atrocities during the apartheid era.
Former South African president Nelson Mandela made a similar decision to largely retire from public life back in 2004.
Tutu said once he steps down, he will no longer be available for media interviews and new appointments will not be added to his schedule.
He said, though, that he would stay involved with the Nobel Laureate Group and the Elders, as well as the Desmond Tutu Peace Center in Cape Town.
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