Church collapse victims arrive from Nigeria

The plane carrying 11 bodies of South Africans who died in the Nigeria church building collapse arrived in Pretoria this morning.

The military C130 aircraft touched down at the Waterkloof air force base at 1.18 am.

Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said today that the government was still awaiting answers from Nigerian authorities regarding the collapse of the church building in which 85 South Africans were killed.

“We are as keen as the families to know the truth of what actually happened when that building collapsed in September,” Radebe told reporters in Pretoria.

“We feel that whoever is responsible, there has to be consequences for that.”

It had been almost five months since the Lagos disaster.

From the military base, the bodies would be transported to the nearest government mortuaries ahead of release to the families.

Radebe said that the government was pinning its hopes on the outcome of a coroner’s inquest established by Nigeria to probe the collapse of a guest house belonging to the Synagogue Church Of All Nations headed by famous preacher TB Joshua.

“The position of government is that we have no direct role to play at the coroner’s inquest because this incident happened in Lagos but our consular-general has a watching brief,” he said.

“We are satisfied that the coroner’s inquest is proceeding very well.”

The minister added that the cost of the repatriation processes had not been ascertained.

“I don’t have the figures of the cost but this has been happening within the auspices of the [National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure] and different departments have dispensed resources to this effort,” said Radebe.

“I’m sure the accounting officers of the departments will be able to report to Parliament what the actual cost of this process has been. Right now we cannot give the actual total cost of this operation.”

Eighty-one South Africans were among the 116 people who died on September 12 last year when a guest house belonging to the Synagogue Church Of All Nations in Lagos – headed by preacher TB Joshua – collapsed.

Seventy-four bodies – including four foreign nationals travelling on South African documents – were returned to South Africa last November.

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