Tutu: I will go to Qunu

2013-12-14 21:01
(Picture: AFP)

(Picture: AFP)

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Johannesburg - Another snag hit South Africa's long goodbye to anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela on Saturday when Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said he had not been accredited as a clergyman at the funeral by the government so he would not attend, but a spokesperson for Tutu said late on Saturday night that he would attend the funeral. 

He would leave for Qunu very early on Sunday morning.

Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj insisted that Tutu is on the guest list and that he hopes a solution will be found so Tutu is present. He said he had verified that Tutu had been invited.

The 82-year-old retired Anglican archbishop of Cape Town indicated he felt he had been snubbed by the current government, with which he has clashed several times in the past.

"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."

Maharaj said he did not know whether Tutu had been invited to eulogise Mandela. Tutu has preached at the funerals of most major anti-apartheid figures, including Steve Biko, Chris Hani, Walter Sisulu and others.

"It's a bit hard to figure out what's going on," said Adam Habib, vice chancellor at theUniversity of the Witwatersrand.

"My gut feeling is it's probably an administrative bungle more than an intentional snub. But it doesn't seem he was the first person on their mind when they were making choices about who speaks. And he has been quite critical of Zuma's propensity for corruption."

Habib pointed out that Tutu was not on the official list of speakers at the Mandela memorial service on Tuesday, although he was eventually added to the programme.

Collins Chabane, a top government official involved in organising the mourning ceremonies, said Tutu was on a proposed guest list for the events that was submitted by church leaders. He said Tutu was No 6 on the list of 112 names, and that he was accredited for the stadium memorial and for the Qunu funeral.

"Anybody who was accredited at FNB [Stadium] could come here without any difficulty," Chabane said. "We did not send any invitation [to Tutu] as we did not send any invitation to anybody."

He said guests were selected from other lists submitted by the Mandela family, the ANC, parliament, and a database of names kept by the presidency.

Chabane said there seems to be some confusion between being accredited and being asked to speak during the funeral service.

The list of speakers has not yet been released.

Read more on:    nelson mandela  |  desmond tutu  |  east london

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