Desmond Tutu officially began his retirement on Thursday, bringing the curtain down on a career that saw him win a Nobel Peace Prize for battling apartheid before emerging as South Africa's conscience.
Tutu announced in July that he would step down from public life on his 79th birthday, which he will celebrate on Thursday on board a cruise ship docked in Cape Town, where he served as archbishop for the Anglican Church.
“He's serious about quieting down,” Tutu's spokesman Dan Vaughan told AFP. “He will now be refusing most of the interview requests he receives.”
Tutu is currently lecturing on board a ship packed with 600 university students on a five-month voyage around the world, which ends in December.
His retirement has been greeted with doubt in South Africa that Tutu will actually step away from public life, with no coverage of his retirement in national media.
Tutu is planning to continue his work with The Elders, a group of leading statesmen that includes South Africa's first black president Nelson Mandela, and with a group of fellow Nobel laureates that speaks out against injustices around the world.
Tutu is also still working to develop the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre in Cape Town, where the organisation is building a new complex to house his peace projects.
The archbishop made port in Cape Town on Sunday and plans to celebrate his birthday and his retirement with friends later in the day, Vaughan said.
“The ship happens to be in Cape Town today, and he'll be having a birthday celebration on board with friends,” Vaughan said.
Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his non-violent struggle against apartheid, establishing himself as the voice of the nation's conscience.
In the years since, he proved indefatigable in leading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to uncover the horrors of apartheid-era abuses.
Tutu never shied away from shining a spotlight on modern South Africa's failings, while travelling the globe to promote efforts at peace from the Middle East to the Solomon Islands. - Sapa-AFP