Archbishop Tutu to retire

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Thursday, 22 July, 2010

Shortly before his 79th birthday, Desmond Tutu announces through the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre that he will be withdrawing from public life in order "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."

I have been very fortunate to have been given opportunities to contribute in a small way to the development of our new democratic, exhilarating, exasperating nation, and to have travelled the world as a representative, first of our collective apartheid anxiety, and later, of our promise and our hope.

I retired as Archbishop of Cape Town in 1996. Then I retired again, after completion of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But my mission determined that I continue to work, and my schedule has grown increasingly punishing over the years.

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.

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.

On the 7th of October I turn 79-years-old, and withdraw from public life. I will limit my time in the office to one day per week until the end of February 2011, when the office begins its official winding down process.

Existing diary appointments will be honoured, but no new appointments will be added to my schedule.

My involvement with the Elders and Nobel Laureate Group will continue, as will my support for the development of the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre in Cape Town.

But I will step down from my positions at the University of the Western Cape, the UN Advisory Committee on the Prevention of Genocide, among others, will be reviewing the list of organisations in which I am involved as Patron, and will no longer be available for media interviews.

As Madiba said on his retirement: Don’t call me; I’ll call you.

I want to say thank you to all South Africans for affording me the space and support to do my work, for allowing me to represent them at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 1984, for contributing so magnificently to the efforts of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, for proving – most recently at the Fifa 2010 World Cup – that ubuntu is not some theoretical construct, but a living, breathing social principle and a lesson to the world.

Thank you to my colleagues, past and present, for doing all the work and allowing me to take the credit. Thank you to my wife Leah, for being so permissive and supportive and strong. Marrying Leah was the best decision I made in my life. Now I will have the time to serve her hot chocolate in bed in the mornings, as any doting husband should.

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