Winnie Madikizela-Mandela snubbed the ANC's 20th anniversary celebration to mark the release of former husband Nelson Mandela from prison after a dispute with the party, and Mandela's grandson Nkosi Mandla Mandela has insinuated that he was not invited to the event.
Meanwhile, struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada has blasted former president Thabo Mbeki for his version of FW de Klerk's unbanning of political parties.
Independent Newspapers has learnt that Madikizela-Mandela chose not to attend the Thursday's celebration after the ruling party refused to issue a statement condemning a newspaper article she considered critical of her.
A source said Madikizela-Mandela called ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu to complain about the article. But Mthembu told her that it was not the ANC's place to respond to an article which was about her and not the ruling party.
Madikizela-Mandela apparently told Mthembu that she would not attend the celebration in Paarl if the party did not defend her.
Madikizela-Mandela was to have led ANC leaders in re-enacting Mandela's famous walk out of Victor Verster Prison on February 11, 1990 - when she was at his side.
Madikizela-Mandela was also supposed to have addressed a rally nearby, and her supporters were left disappointed by her absence - which organisers did not explain.
President Jacob Zuma was also billed to address the rally, but Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe spoke instead.
Also absent were the Mandela daughters Zindzi and Zenani, and grandson Mandla, who often represents the elder statesman at events.
He hinted that he had not been invited.
He said the celebration to which the family had been invited was the State of the Nation address in Parliament "and you saw we were there... my grandfather was there. I can't comment on Victor Verster because I don't know anything about it," he said.
Mthembu refused to comment on Madikizela-Mandela's absence in Paarl.
"I can't say why she didn't come... Why don't we leave it at that - for whichever reason she was not there."
Madikizela-Mandela was not available for comment.
Meanwhile, Kathrada, who was on Robben Island with Mandela but was released a year earlier, launched a veiled attack on Mbeki for "sidestepping history" by not acknowledging Mandela's role in the negotiations between the ANC leadership and the apartheid government.
Kathrada took issue with what Mbeki wrote in an Independent Newspapers supplement when he said: "The direct negotiations between the ANC and the South African government to end apartheid rule began in secret meetings held in Switzerland in 1989."
In an article in the second supplement, commemorating Mandela's 20 years of freedom, Kathrada wrote that it was Madiba who had taken the first steps to initiate talks between the apartheid government and the exiled ANC leadership.
"It therefore came as a surprise when a senior ANC leader sidestepped history... to make the astounding claim... for reasons that I do not wish to speculate about.
"Conspicuously missing in the retired ANC leader's input was any mention of Madiba's ground-breaking efforts," wrote Kathrada, without mentioning Mbeki by name.
Kathrada confirmed that he was referring to Mbeki, but said he did not want to comment further on the matter.
"I wasn't hiding anything. I was responding to an article (Mbeki) wrote in your paper.
"I don't want to carry on a campaign against anybody. I have written an article and I want to stop there," he said.
Mbeki's spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga was not available for comment.