Evaluation Minister Collins Chabane says the government did not issue any invitations for people to attend Madiba's funeral.
The Desmond Tutu Foundation reportedly confirmed on Saturday he would not be attending Madiba’s funeral because he was not an accredited clergy person. There have been speculations that Tutu has been snubbed from attending Madiba’s funeral because of his outspoken criticism of president Jacob Zuma’s administration.
Tutu was also not formally invited to Madiba’s main memorial service at the FNB stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg on Tuesday. "The government issued no invitation to any guest. The guest list is submitted by family and religious leaders. We did not send any invitation to Tutu," said Chabane.
He said the government received the guest list of people who were attending the memorial service on December 9, which included Tutu," said Chabane. He said the list included 112 guests and Tutu’s name was number 6.
"There are two processes. The family and the government decided on who the speakers would be. The programme was finalised by the government and the family. We did not comment. We respected the wishes of the family. We have since been assured by church leaders that they will resolve this matter [the snubbing of Tutu]. We left every thing in their hands," said Chabane.
He said the Eastern Cape province had been allocated 1000 seats – 600 of which should preferably be people from Qunu. A number of community members who spoke to the Mail & Guardian on Saturday had complained that they were barred from attending the funeral of their local hero, who by the time of his death was an international icon.
Chabane also defended the decision to put Madiba’s coffin in an enclosed van, preventing hundreds of local mourners from having a full view of Madiba’s coffin. But Chabane said the decision to put Madiba in an enclosed van was due to rainy weather in Qunu.
"If we did that [putting the coffin in an open van] and it rained, we were going to be criticised by the community [for not being considerate]. We appreciate the [concerns] raised by the community. But president Mandela was an esteemed president. You know there is a burial side for presidents of this country. I said in the beginning we would break the rules. We did this because of the challenges that confronted us.
"He [Madiba] is a former commander in chief. He was the founding president of [the democratic] South Africa. While he is coming from this area [Qunu], he was a national and international leader. We do appreciate the sentiments our people are raising. People must appreciate this is not president Zuma’s decision. It is the family’s," said Chabane.