South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma is not attending the funeral of veteran anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada at the request of his family.
Mr Kathrada called on Mr Zuma to resign last year after he became mired in a series of corruption scandals.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is representing the government at the funeral.
Mr Kathrada, 87, died on Tuesday. He was jailed alongside Nelson Mandela for fighting against white minority rule.
He spent more than 26 years in prison before his release in 1989. He later served as an adviser to then-President Mandela in South Africa’s first democratically elected government.
Mr Zuma had ordered the national flag to fly at half-mast following his death and and had postponed a cabinet meeting so that officials could attend the funeral.
However, Mr Zuma would not attend either the funeral or a memorial service to be held later this week “in compliance with the wishes of the family,” a government statement added.
Mr Katharada’s wife, Barbara Hogan, is known to be a fierce critic of Mr Zuma.
Mr Kathrada asked Mr Zuma to resign after South Africa’s highest court ruled that he had breached the constitution by failing to repay government money used to upgrade his private rural home in Nkandla.
The veteran anti-apartheid activist is being buried according to Muslim rites in South Africa’s main city, Johannesburg.
The request to Mr Zuma not to attend the the funeral suggests that family and friends of the anti-apartheid veteran want to distance themselves from the scandal-hit president.
Mr Zuma’s allies – especially youth leader Collen Maine – launched a sustained attack on veterans like Mr Katharada, after they raised concern about his leadership and the corruption in government.
South Africa’s former high commissioner to the UK, Cheryl Carolus, told me: “It’s just a shame to imagine that in the last few years, even weeks and months, he [Mr Kathrada] was subjected to the most outrageous vitriol from kids who weren’t even born when he went to jail – and that other elders in our ranks actually allowed that”.
So the absence of the 74-year-old Mr Zuma – who spent about a decade on the notorious Robben Island prison with Mr Kathrada – from the funeral can only be described as a snub.