Nelson Mandela funeral: Desmond Tutu says he wasn't invited.

Desmond Tutu Says He Wasn’t Invited to Mandela's Funeral   

Desmond Tutu Says He Wasn’t Invited to Mandela's Funeral   

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Dec. 14 2013 2:43 PM

Desmond Tutu Says He Won’t Attend Mandela Funeral Because He Wasn’t Invited

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People watch as the funeral cortege of former South African president Nelson Mandela passes through Mthatha on its way to his family's rural home December 14

Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu confirmed Saturday he won't be attending former president Nelson Mandela’s funeral on Sunday, insisting he didn’t want to “gatecrash” the event because he wasn’t formally invited. Excluding Tutu, one of the most iconic figures in the anti-apartheid struggle who was close friends with Mandela, “has been described as a politically motivated snub,” notes the Mail & Guardian. Tutu has been a harsh critic of the ruling Africa National Congress (ANC) and has also publicly criticized Mandela’s family for launching legal battles while Mandela was still in the hospital. Two years ago, Tutu said the ANC was “disgraceful” for refusing to grant a visa to the Dalai Lama.

The exact circumstances of the supposed snub are unclear. Reuters reports that Tutu didn’t need an official invitation for the event—and that the government insists he is most certainly invited. A specific invitation wasn’t needed since Tutu had already had taken part in the Tuesday memorial, according to the government. The Associated Press takes it a step further, saying that Tutu was snubbed because he was not accredited as a clergyman at the funeral. Regardless of the minor details, the result is the same: "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.

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The latest snag to hit the 10-day mourning period for the anti-apartheid hero came as Mandela’s coffin arrived in his home in Qunu in Eastern Cape province. Large crowds gathered to pay their respects after at least 100,000 people saw the former president lying in state in Pretoria over three days. Several of those gathered were upset they would not be able to attend the funeral because of the guest list. "How can you have a guest list for a funeral, that is unAfrican," a woman tells the BBC.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.