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Families await loved ones from Nigeria church collapse

05 February 2015 - 16:05 By Sipho Masombuka

Government has refused to say whether all the remaining bodies of the Nigeria church building disaster would be returning to South Africa tomorrow morning. But families believe the bodies of all 11 remaining pilgrims will be repatriated.

On Monday minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe, said they would know on Tuesday how many had been positively identified and would be repatriated.

But government spokesperson Phumla Williams said families had requested that this information be withheld from the media.

“We know how many will be returning but families do not want to read about it in the media. They asked for this one favour and we acceded to the request. This has been too traumatic for them,” she said.

Williams said all they could say was that they were on track and the plain carrying the remains would land tomorrow morning.

However, Mpho Mahlwele, whose mother, Maureen, is amongst the remains that were still in Nigeria, said they have been told all 11 would be repatriated.

“We received a call from an official and we were assured that everybody is coming home,” he said.

A total of 116 people died, 84 of them South Africans died, when a building at TB Joshua's Synagogue Church of All Nations collapsed in Lagos in September last year. The 26 SA survivors touched down at Waterkloof air force base on November 22, with the seventy-four bodies repatriated in November, whilst the remaining 11 were yet to be identified.

The SA National Defence Force C130 aircraft is expected to land at the Air Force Base Waterkloof at 2am tomorrow morning from where the remains would be ferried to nearest government mortuaries. Families will then collect the remains for private burials.