Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his opposition to apartheid rule in South Africa, said he will withdraw from public life after his 79th birthday on Oct. 7.
“The time has now come to slow down,” Tutu said in a statement distributed from Cape Town today. “Existing diary appointments will be honored, but no new appointments will be added to my schedule.”
As South Africa’s first black Anglican bishop, Tutu used his international profile to advocate sanctions against the all-white government, which relinquished power after elections in 1994. He retired as archbishop of Cape Town in 1996 to lead the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a body that aimed to expose the injustices of the past.
In 1997, Tutu learned he had prostate cancer, and underwent surgery.
When the Truth Commission completed its work in 1998, Tutu took up a lectureship at Emory University in Atlanta, returning to South Africa in 2001, ostensibly to retire. Yet he continued to campaign for social justice and participated in a number of forums and organizations, including the United Nations Advisory Committee on the Prevention of Genocide.
He also joined South Africa’s campaign to host the soccer World Cup, appearing at a celebratory concert in Johanensburg on June 10 to welcome fans.
“My mission determined that I continue to work, and my schedule has grown increasingly punishing over the years,” Tutu said. “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.”