Three members of New Zealand's delegation will not be able to attend Nelson Mandela's funeral after the South African government imposed a strict two-person limit.

Heads of state have been told they are only allowed to take one additional person to the official memorial service in Johannesburg.

Prime Minister John Key has decided to take Leader of the Opposition David Cunliffe to the funeral, his office confirmed.

A spokeswoman said that the same rule would be applied to all countries including the United States.

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Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples, former Prime Minister Jim Bolger and former Foreign Minister Sir Don McKinnon also travelled to South Africa to represent New Zealand, but would not be able to attend the service.