Archbishop Desmond Tutu confirms he will not attend Nelson Mandela's funeral

The former archbishop's claims he was not told he was welcome, but the South African presidency disagrees

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The Independent Online

The retired Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, has confirmed that he will not be attending Nelson Mandela’s funeral, despite wanting to pay his respects to a close friend.

Mr Tutu, who has strongly criticised the current South African government, said in a statement that he will not be attending the ceremony to be held in Mr Mandela’s home village because he was not invited.

The presidency denies the allegation.

"Much as I would have loved to attend the service to say a final farewell to someone I loved and treasured, it would have been disrespectful to Tata [Mandela] to gatecrash what was billed as a private family funeral," he said.

"Had I or my office been informed that I would be welcome there is no way on earth that I would have missed it."

The 82-year-old Nobel laureate said he had cancelled his plans to fly to the Easter Cape to attend the funeral after he wasn't told he was on the guest or accreditation lists.

However, Mac Maharaj, a spokesman for the South African presidency, said Mr Tutu is on the guest list and that he hopes a solution will be found so he can attend.

"Certainly he is invited," Mr Maharaj said. "He's an important person."

He said he did not know whether Mr Tutu had been invited to eulogise Mr Mandela but was certain he had been sent an invitation.

Mr Tutu has preached at the funerals of most major anti-apartheid figures, including Steve Biko, Chris Hani and Walter Sisulu.

The Reverend Mpho Tutu, the former archbishop’s daughter, said in a statement that her father had not been accredited as a clergyman at Mr Mandela's funeral.

Mr Maharaj said no credentials were needed.

The issue highlights occasional frictions between Mr Tutu and the current government of President Jacob Zuma.

Before the April 2009 elections propelled Mr Zuma to the presidency, Mr Tutu had said he was so sceptical of the ANC leader he was considering not casting a ballot.

Mr Tutu worked closely with Mr Mandela and served as one of the anti-apartheid struggle's most visible public figures during Mr Mandela’s incarceration.

He was also the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission created by Mr Mandela's government which investigated apartheid atrocities.