At almost every milestone of former President Nelson Mandela’s life, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was there. Tutu, a struggle icon in his own right, has been present at the funerals of fellow comrades in the struggle such as Steve Biko and Chris Hani. This time around, the government of the ANC has failed to invite Tutu to the funeral of his long-time friend, Nelson Mandela. On the last day, Tutu will not be there. Some speculate that this is because the archbishop has been quite vocal in his dissatisfaction with the conduct of the leadership on the ruling party.
Dignitaries from around the world answered the call to come and lay the former president of South Africa to rest while his friend will be watching the event on television. Mpho Tutu, the daughter of the clergyman, offered: “The archbishop is not an accredited clergy person for the event and will thus not be attending.” She was speaking as the chief executive of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.
A close family friend and former ANC member, Bantu Holomisa, was flabbergasted by Tutu’s exclusion from Mandela’s funeral. According to media reports, he said: “Mandela and Tutu were like brothers. Mandela had time for Tutu and Tutu had time for Mandela. It doesn’t sound good at all.”
The Mandelas have distanced themselves from this latest development during the events of the days of mourning which have been staged by the ANC. A spokesperson for the family said that the Mandelas were not involved with the invitations for the funeral. “They are busy mourning. It is the state that is encouraging people to attend or not attend. I’m not aware of any exclusion.”
The archbishop released a statement on Saturday. It read: “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 gatecrash what was billed as a private family funeral.” He also stated that had he been invited, “there is no way on earth” he would have missed the funeral.
On Twitter, COSATU’s Zwelinzima Vavi was asked if it was true that Archbishop Tutu had not been invited to the funeral. His answer was: “Just read that – that will be shame if deliberate.” The general consensus is that seeing as the government was sending invitations, which is understandable but not the norm in African culture, Tutu’s invite should have been one of the first to be sent out.
The spokesperson for the presidency, Mac Maharaj seems just as shocked at the news as the rest of the country is. He said that he had checked and could confirm that Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was “definitely on the list” of accredited individuals. A City Press report credits spokeswoman Phumla Williams: “If he [Tutu] had called, we would have given him accreditation… they would never have turned Tutu away… there were no malicious shenanigans.” As far as the government is concerned, the archbishop should have called if he wanted to attend.
Nelson Mandela will be buried on Sunday at his home in Qunu, Eastern Cape where most of the businesses will be closed for the day.