So when he annouced today that he was retiring from public life, I was a little it sad. I’ll miss the old man – but maybe not for the reasons you might think.
I won’t miss him because of the statements he’s made or because of the good he’s done. I won’t miss him because of his involvement in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I certainly won’t miss him because become of some of his religious beliefs.
You see, I think that The Arch has been largely irrelevent in recent years – since 1994, as one of my colleagues put it this afternoon. Maybe not for quite that long, but he certainly hasn’t added much of any real substance to the national debate for a long time. What’s important is what he HAS done, not what he hasn’t: he’s made the country smile.
That ability to laugh, to smile, to enjoy himself no matter what – that’s what I’ll miss about Uncle Desmond (if Mandela is the father, then I think Tutu can be the uncle – sounds fair enough). His laugh is infectious. Just think of that “South Africa: Alive With Possibility” advert where he laughs and celebrates in the middle of a dusty road. He’s vivacious. He’s fun. He’s what every South African should be – fiercely loyal to his country, and able to smile though even the most difficult patches.
For me, though, the reason I’ll miss him is a very personal one.
Desmond Tutu reminds me a lot of my dad, who died of cancer just over two years ago. They have the same laugh, a very similar smile and the same fun-loving attitude. And they both loved sport. Uncle Desmond said, in annoucing his retirement, that “the time has now come to slow down, to sip, ja, maybe rooibos tea with my beloved wife in the afternoons, to watch cricket and rugby and soccer and tennis”. After one of the operations my dad underwent, the first thing he asked for was a TV so he could watch the cricket. Like I said, they were both sports fans.
Enjoy your break, Arch. You deserve it.
Ps. Enjoy the cricket!