Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu changed course on Saturday night and announced plans to attend the funeral of anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela after all.
Spokesman 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.
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.
Tutu, 82, is like Mandela the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his groundbreaking work in the ultimately successful struggle against apartheid.
More recently he has been a strong critic of President Jacob Zuma’s government, and seemed annoyed about the way funeral arrangements had been handled.
“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.”
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.