Tutu on his way to Qunu

2013-12-15 05:59
Retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu joins his hands as he arrives for the memorial service for former president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto. (File, AP)

Retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu joins his hands as he arrives for the memorial service for former president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto. (File, AP)

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Johannesburg - Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu changed course Saturday night and announced plans to attend the funeral of anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela 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 Sunday in the village of Qunu.

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

Tutu had earlier in the day 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.

"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 Mandela 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.

Collins Chabane, a top government official involved in organizing 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 Qunu funeral.

"We did not send any invitation (to Tutu) as we did not send any invitation to anybody," he said.

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.

AP Writer Christopher Torchia in Qunu, South Africa, contributed to this report.

Nelson Mandela will be laid to rest in Qunu. Say your final farewell and be published on News24 by e-mailing or uploading.

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