Nelson Mandela announcing retirement

1 June 2004

Ladies and gentlemen

Friends and colleagues and especially my good friends from the media.

Thank you very much to all of you for taking time out of your very busy schedules to come and listen to me this morning.

I have always said that many people come to such gatherings where we are present merely out of curiosity to see what an old man looks like. Having observed the media speculation in recent weeks about my retirement and

pending demise, I am even more certain you are present today for exactly that reason. But that does not in any way lessen my appreciation for your presence; on the contrary, we are very happy that old age can still inspire such undeserved attention.

I observe quite a number of gloomy faces in the audience, but I will again have to disappoint you. I am not here to announce any fair departures. And in any case, my family and advisors have warned me not to tell my favorite story about arriving at heavens door, knocking, providing my name and being sent to the other place. Apparently that story makes too many people morose!

What I have come to do here this morning is to make an appeal more than an announcement.

I am turning 86 in a few weeks time and that is a longer life than most people are granted. I have the added blessing of being in very good health, at least according to my doctors. I am confident that nobody present here today will accuse me of selfishness if I ask to spend time, while I am still in good health, with my family, my friends and also with myself.

One of the things that made me long to be back in prison was that I had so little opportunity for reading, thinking and quiet reflection after my release. I intend, amongst other things, to give myself much more opportunity for such reading and reflection. And of course, there are those memoirs about the presidential years that now really need my urgent attention.

When I told one of my advisors a few months ago that I wanted to retire he growled at me: "you are retired." If that is really the case then I should say I now announce that I am retiring from retirement.

I do not intend to hide away totally from the public, but hence forth I want to be in the position of calling you to ask whether I would be welcome, rather than being called upon to do things and participate in events. The appeal therefore is: don’t call me, I’ll call you.

That is also for our generous business community not to feel too disappointed: I shall not totally forget you. When I notice a worthy cause that needs your support, I shall certainly call you.

Seriously therefore: my diary and my public activities will as from today be severely and significantly reduced. We trust that people will understand our considerations and will grant us the opportunity for a much quieter life. And I thank all of you in anticipation for your consideration.

This does, however, not mean that the work that we have been involved in, supported and promoted comes to an end. It has been our practice to establish organizations to do certain work and then to leave it to those organization to get on with the job.

The leadership of what we call, the three Mandela legacy organizations are present here today as proof and assurance that our work will continue, perhaps in an even more focused way now that the attention shifts from the individual to the organizations.

We are now able to concentrate very clearly on the work of these three independent but interlink legacy organizations. I am very satisfied to tell you that they are in full alignment with one another, each charged to giving expression to a specific aspect of human development. The work of the three foundations is distinct but complimentary and supportive of one another.

John Samuel, Bongi Mkhabela and Shaun Johnson - the CEO’s of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and the Mandela Rhodes Foundation respectively - will provide information about the work and sphere of activity of each organization.

I hope that you all will be as excited as I am about what will be achieved by these three highly functional and well organized bodies working in our name. I hope you will also get a clear picture of how much care and thought have gone into aligning these structures and preparing them for playing a major role in South Africa and Africa for many years to come.

Thank you very much for your attention and thank you for being kind to an old man - allowing him to take a rest, even if many of you may feel that after loafing somewhere on an island and other places for 27 years the rest is not really deserved.

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation