Nelson Mandela's close friend retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu today said he will not attend the anti-apartheid icon's funeral because he has not been invited, even as the South African government insisted that an invitation was sent to him.
"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," Tutu said in a statement, with the Nobel Peace Prize winner's office declining further comment.
Critics have claimed that Tutu is being victimised by either the African National Congress (ANC) or the Mandela family or both because he was very vocal in recent months in criticising President Jacob Zuma, the ANC, and Mandela's relatives who have been feuding in court over his inheritance.
Mandela, who died on December 5 at the age of 95 after a protracted illness, will be buried tomorrow in a state funeral incorporating burial rites of his Xhosa tribe.
Earlier, Tutu's daughter Mpho was quoted by a South African newspaper as saying that her father did not have accreditation to attend Madiba's burial in Qunu.
The government, however, denied this, stating that Tutu is on the list of the accredited people to attend the funeral.
Mac Maharaj, a spokesman for the South African presidency, said Tutu is on the guest list.
"Certainly he is invited," Maharaj said. "He's an important person."
Tutu was famously quoted as saying in 2011 that "one day we will pray for the defeat of the ANC government" because of the way it is going.
His comments were related to views expressed by Mandela that if the ANC did not live up to expectations, the people should do to it what they had done to the apartheid-era minority white government.
Tutu was one of the most vocal opponents of apartheid while Mandela was in jail for 27 years before becoming the country's first black President in 1994.
About 500 guests, including several heads of state or their deputies, are expected to be at the funeral site tomorrow in Qunu.