South African 'moral compass' Tutu officially retires

"For decades he has been a moral titan - a voice of principle, an unrelenting champion of justice, and a dedicated peacemaker," says Barak Obama

October 7, 2010 | Web First
By Munyaradzi Makoni | Ecumenical News International
Cape Town

 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, often described as South Africa's moral compass, officially retired on his 79th birthday saying he wishes to devote time to his wife, Leah, and family.

Tutu, who was a major figure in the struggle against apartheid, announced in July that he would step down from public life, and would stop giving media interviews, from Oct. 7, his birthday.

"I have got a wife and family that help to keep my head the right size. Just when I am thinking that I am the cat's whiskers, they remind me that, 'You are just daddy for us and husband'," Tutu was quoted saying by the South African Press Association.

South Africa's Daily Dispatch newspaper editorialised on Oct. 7, "He has epitomised tolerance and understanding, popularising the African concept of ubuntu, which calls for forgiveness and to the ability to always show 'humanity to others'."

U.S. President Barack Obama congratulated Tutu saying in a written statement, "For decades he has been a moral titan - a voice of principle, an unrelenting champion of justice, and a dedicated peacemaker."

The former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, who won his Nobel Prize in 1984, during the height of the struggle against white minority rule, has also strongly criticised corruption within the ruling African National Congress government and tyranny he has seen from Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's rule.

"There are strong parallels between the way in which Tutu and [India's Mohandas] Gandhi reshaped civil society by opposing the corruption and greed which has permeated our world," the Daily Dispatch wrote. "It is now for their fellow men and women to take up the mantles of their struggle for decency and endeavour to ensure we all live in peace."

Tutu became the first black general secretary of the South African Council of Churches in 1978, and then in 1986 the first black to head South Africa's Anglican church. The archbishop also headed South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission into crimes committed in the name of apartheid and also in the struggle against the racist ideology.

Tutu has always collaborated with other denominations and faiths. He worked closely with the World Council of Churches in the fight for racial justice during apartheid and on climate change during the 2009 United Nations' talks in Copenhagen.

He said he would honour his existing appointments, but will not add any new engagements to his schedule. He will limit his working time to one day a week until his office winds down in February 2011. During his retirement Tutu said he would enjoy watching cricket, rugby and soccer as well as other popular sports in South Africa.

When he announced he would step down, he said, "I will shut up but sometimes I might not be able to resist."

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