Media release

Update on preparations for repatriation of the mortal remains of South Africans from Nigeria

23 October 2014

23 October 2014

Members of the media and fellow South Africans.

It is over a month since the collapse of the building in Nigeria that left 116 people dead.  Amongst these eighty one (81) are believed to be South Africans and a total of 85 bodies to be repatriated (3 Zimbabwean & 1 DRC Nationals travelling with South African passports are included on the request by their respective governments). 

We know that with each passing day the waiting becomes more difficult especially for the directly affected families.  We wish to start by thanking families of the deceased for their patience and co-operation. 

As government we re-iterate our commitment to making sure that all the mortal remains of South Africans are brought back home for burial by their families and communities.

DNA analysis by Nigerian Authorities

We are pleased to confirm that DNA samples gathered from the 116 deceased arrived at the laboratory in Stellenbosch appointed by the Nigerian government to do the DNA analysis.  Such analysis has commenced.  The SAPS Forensic Team has already collected the necessary ante-mortem samples from blood relatives of South Africans presumed to have lost their lives in this tragedy.

Only when the DNA analysis process has been finalised will our government be able to conclusively identify South Africans from amongst the 116 people who died in this incident. The results of the DNA analysis will enable authorities to link specific mortal remains with their rightful families. Since the DNA process is in the hands of the Nigerian authorities, we are unable to provide any update regarding the timeframes when this process might be completed.

Briefing the Political Representatives of provincial governments

As part of the preparation for the repatriation of the mortal remains, the Inter-Ministerial Task Team met with political representatives of provincial governments on 13 October 2014 to brief them.  The meeting was attended by representatives from all affected Provinces. The IMC updated the provincial representatives on progress made thus far in assisting families as well as plans for the repatriation of mortal remains.

This meeting was important because it is expected that the Provincial governments will play an important role in supporting families once the mortal remains are dispatched to their respective provinces. 

Logistical arrangements for the repatriation of the remains.

Whilst we still do not have the exact details of when the process of identification through the DNA tests will be concluded, we want to share the procedure that will be followed as soon as Nigerian authorities give authorisation for the release of the mortal remains.

The procedure to be followed is strongly informed by the analysis of the material conditions on the ground (in Lagos) done by the South African Assessment Team that was dispatched to Nigeria following the disaster. 

The National Joint Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) has agreed on the following procedures and activities:

  • Upon announcement of release of the mortal remains, the NATJOINTS will deploy an Advance Team comprising of the National Disaster Management Centre, South African Military Health Service, National Department of Health and SAPS Division: Forensic Service. The Advance Team will finalise all necessary and administrative processes and prepare the mortal remains for their final journey back home. This preparatory work is an intricate process that may take up to seven days to complete from time of the team arrival in Lagos.
  • The NATJOINTS has identified an aircraft that will be used to transport the mortal remains on their journey home. The  aircraft will depart from Air Force Base Waterkloof with  Forensic Pathology Service (FPS) vehicles that are suitably equipped for the purpose.
  • On arrival in Lagos, the teams will proceed  to the three different facilities where the mortal remains are being kept. Once the mortal remains have been retrieved, the teams  will return to the airport  for the 6 – 8 hour flight back home.
  • From Air Force Base Waterkloof, the mortal remains will be transported by road  to their respective provinces where families will proceed with their own funeral arrangements.

Preparations are at an advanced stage for the formal reception that will be held at Air Force Base Waterkloof. Only family members of the deceased and invited dignitaries will be in attendance at the formal reception. The Department of Social Development is engaging with families with regard to arrangements for the formal reception.. More details will be communicated closer to the time.

We would like to thank the NATJOINTS for the on-going, well-coordinated government response to this tragedy.

We encourage the families to take comfort in the knowledge that the greater part of the work has already been done. Government continues to cooperate with the Nigerian authorities to ensure that each and every South African will be brought home to their loved ones in a dignified manner.  


Phumla Williams
Cell: 083 501 0139

Issued by: Department of Communications on behalf of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team on the Nigeria tragedy

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