JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – South African peace icon Desmond Tutu is to miss the burial of his friend Nelson Mandela, the archbishop’s office said Saturday, amid allegations he was not invited for political reasons.
“The archbishop is not an accredited clergyperson for the event and will thus not be attending,” the Nobel Laureate’s daughter Mpho Tutu told AFP.
Tutu’s aide Roger Friedman refused to comment on media suggestions that Tutu was excluded because of criticism of the ruling ANC, saying only that “he is presently not planning to attend.”
Tutu, who retired in 2010 and is seen as South Africa’s moral beacon, is openly critical of President Jacob Zuma’s graft-tainted administration.
He was also left out of the official programme of the Mandela main memorial service held in Soweto on Tuesday and attended by nearly 100 world leaders.
He was called up to the podium at the end of the service to bless the ceremony, when only a handful of people remained in the stadium, and seized the opportunity to reprimand the crowd for heckling Zuma during the memorial.
Known fondly as “the Arch”, he is still regarded as the voice of South Africa’s moral conscience.
Mandela spent his first night as a free man at Tutu’s home in 1990 after his release from 27 years in prison and the two men remained extremely close in the following years.