Gauteng honours 22 Nigerian church collapse victims

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on November 20, 2014. 

Gauteng premier, David Makhura, said families who lost loved ones in the Nigerian collapse should be comforted by the fact that they died doing God’s will, at a mass memorial service held at Johannesburg City Hall this afternoon.

Bereaved families who lost loved ones in the Nigerian SCOAN church building collapse at a mass memorial service held at the Johannesburg City Hall, 20 November 2014. Picture: Valentina Nicol
Bereaved families who lost loved ones in the Nigerian SCOAN church building collapse at a mass memorial service held at the Johannesburg City Hall, 20 November 2014. Picture: Valentina Nicol

The memorial service comes two months after a guesthouse connected to prophet TB Joshua’s, Synagogue Church of all Nations collapsed and killed 116 people, eighty of which were South African.

Makhura said the nation is with the 22 families from Gauteng who lost loved ones. “They died in God’s name, they died serving him,” he added.

Seventy four bodies were successfully repatriated on Sunday, with a further 11 left behind. Earlier this week, Phumla Williams, spokesperson for the department of communications said the identification process for those left behind would have to start from scratch to “positively identify” the remains.

Sombre-faced family members made their way into the hall, some holding hands and others holding back tears.

The families have been asked to not view the mortal remains of their loved ones as the bodies were exposed for some time.

Makhura said government did their best in the repatriation process because “Jacob Zuma’s government is a government that cares.” The 22 families who will lay their loved ones to rest this week, need only ask if they need any assistance Makhura said.

TB Joshua may face legal action

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on October 9, 2014. 

A man who lost his sister when a guest house of the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Nigeria collapsed almost a month ago wants to take legal action against the church.

Mpho Molebatsi said this week his “anger was directed at TB Joshua and his church”, adding the incident had left far too many people traumatised not to take further action.

According to weekend reports, the evangelist pastor from Nigeria, TB Joshua, has sent teams to hand over gifts to the families of the 84 deceased South Africans.

The gifts included money, anointed water and maize meal.

TB Joshua. Picture: Supplied
TB Joshua. Picture: Supplied

But Molebatsi said he wanted nothing from the pastor.

“You can’t pay for a funeral with that. He can take the R5 000 and shove it,” he said.

Molebatsi’s sister, Hlubi, has not been returned to South Africa yet.

SLOW PROCESS

Government spokesperson Phumla Williams said earlier this week Nigerian authorities were in the process of conducting DNA analyses on the bodies of the 115 people killed in the building collapse.

The process of repatriating the bodies to South Africa had been slow, she said.

“The Nigerians said they will draw the DNA samples themselves and appoint a service provider to run the tests. Only then can we begin to compare results with our data.”

The service provider may be South African, but that remains unclear.

She said the Nigerian government had made it clear South Africa would not have access to the bodies.

“They insisted we aren’t going to touch those bodies … even though they don’t have the technology to do some of the testing,” Williams said.

GOVERNMENT’S PROMISE

The South African government has promised the bodies would be returned to the right families, but that might be difficult as it’s hard to get fingerprints from decomposing corpses.

Molebatsi said the time families had been given for repatriation was a week or two, and they “could only hope” this timeline was accurate.