South African anti-apartheid leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu says he will retire soon from public life. Tutu, who battled to end apartheid and later to promote peace and reconciliation, announced at a news conference Thursday he would retire from public life October 7, on his 79th birthday.
He told reporters his schedule of public appearances had grown increasingly punishing. "Instead of growing old gracefully with my family, reading and writing and praying and thinking, too much of my time has been spent at airports and in hotels," said Tutu.
He said from October he would limit his time at the office to one day per week in order to wrap up his many public responsibilities.
"The time has now come to slow down and sip, maybe, Rooibos tea with my beloved wife in the afternoon, to watch cricket and rugby and soccer and tennis; to travel to visit my children and grandchildren, rather than [go to] conferences and conventions and university campuses," said Tutu.
Tutu said he would continue to support his Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation and continue to work with a global council of statesmen called The Elders, founded by former President Nelson Mandela. Tutu said, however, that he would leave his positions at the University of Western Cape and with the United Nations Advisory Committee on the Prevention of Genocide. And he said he would no longer grant media interviews.
Ordained a priest of the Anglican Church in 1960 at the age of 30, Tutu used his clerical status to denounce the injustices of apartheid, and he was arrested repeatedly for his outspokenness. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, and was named the first black archbishop of Cape Town two years later. He used his new international stature to broaden the anti-apartheid struggle.
During the first post-apartheid elections in 1994, Tutu coined the phrase "Rainbow Nation" to describe his country. He was subsequently named chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which for 30 months heard victims testify about the atrocities committed during the apartheid era.
He retired as archbishop 14 years ago, but maintained a heavy public schedule. He continued to denounce injustices around the world and to criticize what he saw as the failings of the new South Africa.
Tutu spoke out against AIDS denial during the government of former President Thabo Mbeki, and apologized to gays and lesbians for the suffering caused by the teachings of the Anglican Church.
One of the biggest supporters of bringing the football World Cup to South Africa, Tutu was seen dancing and singing during the opening ceremonies and several matches.