Survivors arrive in SA

2014-09-23 00:00

“MAMA, mama.”

These were the words of an orphaned four-year-old South African girl who screamed under the rubble when T.B. Joshua’s church building collapsed in Nigeria. But her mother was unable to respond to her cry.

Zama Mthethwa was taken to Sabol Hospital in Lagos where she spent several days alone in the ward. Her 18-month-old sister survived the tragic ordeal but parents and half brother, Mandla and Lufuno Mthethwa and Zonewa, are among 84 South Africans who died.

Zama, from Johannesburg, was found by another KZN survivor — only named as Sibonakaliso by Gift of the Givers’ Dr Imtiaz Sooliman — in a hospital ward on Thursday night. Sibonakaliso then informed Gift of the Givers who, together with the SA Embassy in Nigeria, traced her family back home.

Sooliman said: “She was psychologically traumatised. We have spoken to authorities to give them [Zama and Noluthando] special attention.”

The Witness contacted a family member of Zama’s who said she could not comment because “I’m in a lot of pain”, before hanging up.

Zama was amongst the 25 building collapse survivors who arrived home at Swartkop Air Force Base in Pretoria yesterday morning. They were taken to Steve Biko Academic Hospital where they are being assessed.

Minister in the Presidency and chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team on the Nigeria tragedy, Jeff Radebe, said the evacuation was the biggest that SA had embarked on since the dawn of democracy.

“All South Africans injured in Nigeria when the building collapsed have been brought back home except for one who decided to go back to Synagogue Church of all Nations,” Radebe said.

Radebe said one patient on board had kidney complications and was receiving dialysis. Another patient had developed gangrene and may need to have their toes amputated.

“This is the most difficult situation we are experiencing now. As the South African government, we are keenly awaiting for the investigation to be conducted.”

• Families of people who are not yet accounted for can call 012 351 1000 for information.

• khanyisani.dlomo@witness.co.za

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