Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma did not acknowledge former president Thabo Mbeki at the unveiling of the statue of former president Nelson Mandela in Pretoria, because he had left early, his office said on Tuesday.
Comments questioning why Zuma had not made mention of Mbeki had been “noted”, said Mbeki's spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga.
“Mbeki left the function immediately after the unveiling to attend to matters of his work in peace-building in the two republics of Sudan and South Sudan and could therefore not be acknowledged,” Ratshitanga said in a statement.
On Monday, Zuma led the unveiling of a nine-metre-tall statue at the Union Buildings, a day after Mandela was buried in Qunu in the Eastern Cape.
The R8 million statue was created by South African sculptors Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren. It is close to the Union Buildings' lawns, overlooking Arcadia.
“The statue will forever remind us of Madiba's towering vision and stature,” Zuma said at the time.
At an official memorial service for Mandela last Tuesday, sections of the crowd repeatedly booed Zuma, but cheered Mbeki.
The next day, Mbeki told a church memorial service in Midrand that better leadership was needed after Mandela.
“Exactly because we are dealing with this more complex struggle, we need to raise the level of the quality of leadership... To accelerate this progress that we need, we'll come back to this matter about the quality of leadership.”
A few days later, at an African National Congress tribute ceremony for Mandela at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria, Zuma berated politicians who might use Mandela's death to try and settle scores.
“Comrades, I would be very happy that as we mourn and celebrate Madiba, we do not abuse his name. We should not think that Madiba's passing is a time for settling scores. (If you try to settle scores), it means you do not understand Madiba and you will never understand him, because he was a man of honesty.”
Mandela died, aged 95, at his home in Houghton in Johannesburg on December 5.
Mbeki succeeded Mandela as president in June 1999.
After almost two terms in office Mbeki resigned in 2008, following the ANC's decision to recall him.
This was after he was defeated by Zuma at the party's elective conference in Polokwane.