At 79, Tutu gives up public life to 'grow old gracefully'

Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu has announced that he will cut back on public life when he turns 79 later this year, saying "the time has now come to slow down" and spend more time with his family.

The former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town said that after his birthday on 7 October he will limit his time in the office to one day a week until February 2011, when he will retire.

"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," Dr Tutu said. "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 [go] to conferences... and university campuses."

In recent weeks, a jovial Dr Tutu appeared at several World Cup events. He gave a speech to thunderous applause at the tournament's gala concert and was also seen dancing in his seat at the opening ceremony.

Dr Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, then used his new-found international stature to step up the campaign against apartheid. He led calls for punitive sanctions against South Africa, remaining one of the few strong voices inside the country while other activists were imprisoned or forced to operate abroad.

Dr Tutu said once he steps down, he will no longer be available for media interviews and new appointments will not be added to his schedule.

He said, though, that he would stay involved with the Nobel Laureate Group and the Elders, a group of statesmen and women brought together by Nelson Mandela. He will also remain involved in the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre in Cape Town.

Dr Tutu said he contributed "in a small way to the development of our new democratic, exhilarating, exasperating nation. Thank you to my colleagues, past and present, for doing all the work and allowing me to take the credit."