South Africa Presidency Denies Not Inviting Tutu for Mandela Funeral

The Office of the South African Presidency has launched a damage control offensive, following reports on Saturday that Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu had cancelled his flight to the Eastern Cape to attend former President Nelson Mandela’s funeral on Sunday because he had not been invited.

The incident sparked an outcry because Tutu has been a lifelong friend of Mandela and, like Mandela, is revered as a moral beacon around the world.

The two national treasures also enjoy a rare footnote in history – the former Vilikazi Street, Soweto residents, are the only two Nobel Laureates who lived on the same road.

‘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 gatecrash into what was billed as a private family funeral,’ 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.’

There is growing speculation that Tutu had been snubbed because he is an outspoken critic of both the current government and its leader, President Jacob Zuma.

Although Tutu was also left off the official programme for the Mandela memorial in Soweto on Tuesday, he was invited at the last minute to give a blessing.

Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj insisted that Tutu was on the list of invited dignitaries for Sunday’s burial.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) backed Maharaj, saying “it is a State funeral and not an ANC funeral’.