Retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu says he was not invited to attend a state funeral for his dear friend, fellow Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela.
In a Saturday statement, Tutu said he would have loved to attend the service and say a "final farewell" to someone he "loved and treasured."
However, he said it would have been "disrespectful" to "gatecrash" the funeral. He added, there was "no way on earth" he would have missed the ceremony if he or his office had been informed that he was welcomed to attend.
The apparent omission of an invitation has been seen by some as a snub towards the religious leader, who has been an outspoken critic of the ruling African National Congress. However, the government denies Tutu was snubbed.
Minister for the presidency Collins Chabane addressed the issue during a Saturday news briefing, saying the government had not issued any invitations.
"With regard to the invitation to Archbishop Tutu, we would like to confirm that we did not send any invitation as we did not send an invitation to anybody. Probably we made a mistake - we don't know. But, we have never sent an invitation to anybody."
Chabane said Tutu's name was on proposed guest list for memorial events that was submitted by church leaders.
Earlier, a South African government spokeswoman said if Tutu wanted to attend the funeral, he should have called. The spokeswoman's statement was published by the South African Press Association .
According to SAPA, the government spokeswoman also said "There were no malicious shenanigans."
Tutu's daughter said Saturday the archbishop would not be attending because he was not designated as an accredited clergyperson for the event. Also, Tutu's staff says he canceled a flight to the Qunu region after receiving no indication that his name was on the guest list.
At least five thousand people, including Prince Charles, heads of state and other dignitaries, are expected to attend Mr. Mandela's funeral in his hometown of Qunu, on Sunday.
Tutu and Mr. Mandela had warm relations. The former South African president appointed Archbishop Tutu to head South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
In recent years, Tutu had accused the ANC of mismanagement.
He was also left off the official program at Tuesday's memorial service for Mr. Mandela. However, he was invited to speak at the podium before the service ended.