Tutu to attend Mandela's funeral

Archbishop Desmond Tutu will attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral in Qunu today.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu leads a service for the late Nelson Mandela at the St George's Cathedral in Cape Town, 6 December 2013. Picture: SAPA.

JOHANNESBURG - Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu will also be attending Nelson Mandela's funeral, which takes place in Qunu today.

There was controversy on Friday when he issued a statement that he'd cancelled his flight to the Eastern Cape after learning that he wasn't invited to the funeral.

But government responded, saying he is on the list and his accreditation at the FNB Stadium for Madiba's memorial service is also for today's funeral.

Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane says, "We would like to indicate that government issued no invitation to any guests."

Mandela had a close friendship with fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tutu, forged in the struggle against apartheid.

Tutu's absence from the global icon's final farewell raised questions about the outspoken clergyman's strained relationship with the current South African government and ruling ANC party.

"Had I or my office been informed that I would be welcome there is no way on earth that I would have missed it," Tutu said in the statement.

"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 said.

The controversy emerged as Mandela's body arrived at his ancestral home of Qunu ahead of the state funeral, which will be attended by family members, national leaders and foreign guests including Britain's Prince Charles and US civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson.

At the memorial ceremony for Mandela on Tuesday in Johannesburg, Tutu was not initially on the speaker's list, but he was eventually invited to the podium and tried to calm an unruly crowd that had booed President Jacob Zuma.

In his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela warmly described Tutu as "a man who had inspired an entire nation with his words and his courage, who had revived the people's hope during the darkest of times."