14 Dec 2013

Tutu confirms he will not attend Nelson Mandela funeral

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela’s close friend and fellow anti-apartheid hero, will not attend the former South African president’s funeral as he says he was not told he would be welcome.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Nelson Mandela (picture: Getty)

The clergyman said on Saturday that the funeral “was billed as a private family funeral” and that it would have been “disrespectful” to “gate-crash”.

Referring to Mandela by the affectionate term “Tata”, Archbishop Tutu said in a statement: “Had I or my office been informed that I would be welcome there is no way on earth that I would have missed it.

“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 to gate-crash what was billed as a private family funeral.”

Archbishop Tutu’s non-attendance has brought what is perceived to be a strained relationship between the clergyman and the ANC-led government into the spotlight. It has been suggested that Archbishop Tutu has been snubbed by a government that he has criticised.

‘On the guest list’

However, the South African government has insisted that Archbishop Tutu is invited to the funeral, which will take place on Sunday.

Asked about Tutu’s non-attendance, foreign ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela said: “Desmond Tutu is definitely on the guest list”.

“I suspect the issue here is whether he would have provided any official duties as a clergy person … he may have taken a decision not to attend the funeral,” he added.

The row has emerged as Mandela’s body was taken from Pretoria to its final resting place in Qunu.

On Sunday Mandela will be laid to rest in a funeral attended by around 4,500 people, with the burial attended by around 450 people.