Tutu changes his mind about Mandela funeral

2013-12-15 07:38

Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu arrived at the funeral of former president Nelson Mandela moments before the coffin did, after changing course last night and announcing plans to attend the funeral after all.

Spokesperson Roger Friedman did not explain Tutu’s abrupt reversal but said Tutu would catch a flight early in the morning and be in attendance at Mandela’s funeral today in the village of Qunu.

He did not explain the reason for Tutu’s dramatic change of plans.

Tutu thanked Planning Minister Trevor Manuel for making the trip happen after arriving in Mthatha this morning, tweeted EWN.

He arrived at the state funeral in Qunu moments before the coffin did this morning. Smiling and wearing purples robes, Tutu took his seat among other distinguished guests.

Tutu had earlier yesterday said he would not go because the government had not made him feel welcome and he did not want to “gatecrash” the funeral of his longtime ally and friend.

Tutu, 82, is – like Mandela – the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his groundbreaking work in the ultimately successful struggle against apartheid.

More recently he has been a strong critic of President Jacob Zuma’s government, and seemed annoyed about the way funeral arrangements had been handled.

“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,” 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.”

His daughter also released a statement that Tutu would not attend as he had not been accredited as a clergyman for the event.

However, government officials said Tutu had been accredited to attend and would be welcome.

The high profile spat may revolve around whether Tutu was invited to speak at the funeral or is simply welcome to attend. Tutu has figured prominently at the funerals of most of the major anti-apartheid leaders, including Steve Biko, Chris Hani, Walter Sisulu and others.

» This story was updated after first published.

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