Media briefing on South Africian repatriation team heading to Nigeria

2 February 2015

Ladies and gentlemen of the media,
Fellow South Africans
Good morning,

It has been over four months since our country experienced one of the biggest tragedies since the birth of our young democracy in 1994.  The lives of eighty-one South African families were changed forever on 12 September 2014, when a multi-storey guesthouse that belongs to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria, collapsed.   A sense of grief and shock engulfed the nation.

The South African government, led by President Zuma, committed itself to do everything within its power to ensure the injured and the deceased are returned to South Africa. President Zuma appointed an Inter-Ministerial Committee to oversee government’s response to the tragedy. The National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) were activated to coordinate various role players and lead technical planning for the identification and repatriation of both the injured and the deceased South Africans.

On 22 September 2014, twenty-five (25) injured South Africans were successfully repatriated back to South Africa.  All of them have   been discharged from hospital and reunited with their families.

 Following a rigorous victim identification processes, the mortal remains of 74 deceased South Africans were   repatriated back to South Africa.  Their respective families received their mortal remains   during the official reception ceremony   on the 16 November 2014.  At that time, eleven of the South African mortal remains had not been positively identified and therefore could not be repatriated.

The South African government has been working tirelessly with the Nigerian government in the past two months to try and positively identify the mortal remains of the remaining South Africans. Fresh samples were collected from the eleven families for further verification tests.

Ladies, and Gentleman,   I am happy to announce that  today 02 February 2015,  a SANDF C130 aircraft  with a repatriation team is departing to Lagos (Nigeria) to bring  the mortal remains of those that have been positively identified.  The long wait for these families, friends and communities is finally over.

The C130 aircraft is expected back at the Air Force Base Waterkloof on the evening of Wednesday, 04 February 2015. The mortal remains will   be transported from the Air Force Base Waterkloof to the nearest government mortuaries.  Government Social Workers are in continuous communication with the families about the specific details thereof.

Families encouraged to seek grief counselling

Government wants to encourage anyone in need to make use of our freely available grief counselling services. They should call the Social Development Department’s toll-free number on 0800 428 428.

They can alternatively send a “please call me” text message to: *120*7867# and a professional counsellor will call them back.

Government thanks all stakeholders

Once again, we thank all South Africans for their support and patience since this dark cloud befell our nation over four months ago.

Government expresses its appreciation to the Nigerian authorities for the cooperation accorded to us during the identification and repatriation of the injured and deceased South Africans. All this work was done in a professional and cordial manner due to their assistance and support.

Government wishes to extend its appreciation to President Zuma for his leadership during this crisis as well as to members of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for their guidance and support.

We say thanks to members of the media for your assistance in getting information out to the public. It was through your support that we were able to keep South Africans updated on the work that government was doing to bring home their fellow compatriots.

Lastly, we would like to say a special word of thanks to all members of National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) for the excellent manner in which they dealt with this matter. We all walk taller and stand prouder today, as South Africans, because of the professionalism and meticulous dedication to duty demonstrated by the NATJOINTS since this incident occurred in September last year.

It was only through everyone working together that we were able to realise the commitment made by our government to repatriate all South Africans back home.

Thank you

Enquiries:

Phumla Williams
Spokeswoman for the Inter-Ministerial Task Team
Cell: 083 501 0139           

Issued by Department of Communications (DoC) on behalf of The Inter- Ministerial Task Team on the Nigeria tragedy  

Year: 
2015
Media Statement date: 
Monday, February 2, 2015