Politics

Tutu tries to retire, again, but this time he’s a little more serious

By Andy Rice 22 July 2010

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is retiring – for the third time, by his own count. Though he won’t get away with it, he plans to at least take control of his own schedule from now on. Don’t expect him to stay away from the opening of SA’s 2020 Olympics, however.

He did it in 14 years ago, when he retired as the archbishop of Cape Town at age 65. He did it again after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission wrapped up. So this time Desmond Tutu is being a little smarter about it; he’s not claiming to retire, entirely, he’s merely “withdrawing from public life” when he turns 79 in October.

Except when it comes to the peace NGO in Cape Town that carries his name, the Elders (a touchy-feely implementation of the Illuminati idea), the Nobel Laureate Group, and any ad hoc stuff he just can’t bear not to deal with. Oh, and anything already in the diary. And one day a week in the office.

“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,” Tutu said in a prepared speech on Thursday.

And despite his rather unconventional interpretation of retirement, it sounds like Tutu will manage to pull off at least part of that. He will be stepping down from many of the positions that require foreign travel: the UN Advisory Committee on the Prevention of Genocide, for instance. He’s also firmly making himself unavailable to the media, a stance that Nelson Mandela has proven is mostly possible.

He’s clearly drawing his inspiration from Mandela, who makes it to the occasional very high profile event despite his considerably more advanced age. “As Madiba said on his retirement: Don’t call me; I’ll call you,” Tutu quoted.

Given how energetic he still is, often putting people half his age to shame, we suspect he’ll be making those phone calls for a while yet.

By Phillip de Wet

Photo: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu dances at pro-Tibet rally in San Francisco in 2008. (Photo: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)

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