Archbishop Desmond Tutu ends public career at 79

A look back at Archbishop Desmond Tutu's career

Related Stories

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is stepping down from public life, as he celebrates his 79th birthday.

The man described as the "conscience" of South Africa was a prominent voice during the country's struggle against white minority rule.

He has since been the voice of reconciliation in a number of regional conflicts.

But the Nobel Peace prize winner says he wants to spend more time with his family and watching cricket.

He also says he wants to make way for a new generation of leaders.

BBC Southern Africa correspondent Karen Allen says Archbishop Tutu is a man widely considered as a moral compass in South Africa, admired for his integrity and adored for his infectious laugh.

Resentment and digestion

As a young cleric back in the 1970s, he was a vocal critic of the apartheid regime.

In the mid-1980s, when South Africa was still under white minority rule, he campaigned in the townships - on one occasion famously wading into the frontline to call for calm when a mob tried to lynch a suspected undercover policeman.

The story so far: Tutu timeline

  • Born 1931
  • 1970s: Became prominent as apartheid critic
  • 1984: Awarded Nobel Peace Prize
  • 1986: First black Archbishop of Cape Town
  • 1995: Appointed head of Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • Strong critic of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Israel's policy against Palestinians and US-led war in Iraq

He became the first black archbishop of Cape Town in 1986.

After South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994, he chaired the Truth and Reconciliation commission - the body set up to investigate apartheid-era crimes - and occasionally broke down in tears at some of the horrific testimony.

But he always tried to forgive, saying in 2000 that: "Resentment and anger are bad for your blood pressure and your digestion."

In more recent times, he has been involved in conflict resolution with a group of prominent retired African statesmen called The Elders.

He has continued to court controversy - singling out leaders such as Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and Britain's Tony Blair for criticism.

Earlier this year, he described South Africa's hosting of the football World Cup finals as one of the most important events for the country since the end of apartheid.

He insists his departure aims to clear the way for new talent to blossom, but our correspondent says he remains a potent symbol of South African pride.

More on This Story

Related Stories

More Africa stories

RSS

Features

  • The Duchess and Duke of Cambridge and Prince GeorgeGorgeous George

    Baby steals show as tour reveals rise in support for monarchy


  • Houses of ParliamentBig impact?

    How a Scottish Yes vote would change the UK Parliament


  • Kim Jong-un visits a children's campThe Notepad Men

    Who are the people who take down Kim Jong-un's every word?


  • Donald Tusk7 days quiz

    What made Poland's prime minister become an internet hit?


  • Beebcoins logoMaking money

    How easy is to coin your own virtual currency?


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.