Special Envoy heads to Abuja, Lagos

Monday, November 10, 2014

Pretoria – Special Envoy and Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe, has left for Abuja, in Nigeria, to meet with President Goodluck Jonathan to expedite the process of bringing home the bodies of the South Africans who died in that country two months ago.

President Jacob Zuma last week appointed the Minister as the South African government Special Envoy to go to Nigeria to engage with the Nigerian President as well as Lagos State authorities.

A total of 81 South Africans are presumed to have died when the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) guesthouse collapsed on 12 September 2014.

Minister Radebe earlier described the incident as one of the worst tragedies in the history of the country since 1994. 

Speaking before his departure on Monday, the Minister said this afternoon he would meet with President Jonathan and then proceed to the State of Lagos to meet with Governor Babatunde Fashola.

“Last week, the President appointed me as a Special Envoy to Nigeria … to make sure that the mortal remains of the 81 South Africans who perished about two months ago are brought back home, so that is basically the mission to Abuja as well as to Lagos.

“I will be meeting with His Excellency, the President of Nigeria, and the Governor of the State of Lagos so we can get a briefing as to where issues are.”

He said it was traumatic that the families were still in limbo as to when the mortal remains of their loved ones would be brought to South Africa.

The difficulty at the moment was to ensure that the 81 South Africans were positively identified through fingerprinting as well as DNA samples.

He said the State of Lagos had commissioned a company in Stellenbosch to conduct DNA tests on all those who died in the tragedy. “That information is within the jurisdiction of the Nigerian authorities.”

Minister Radebe said government had to be sure that the bodies that are repatriated are indeed South Africans.

He said the Department of Social Development was in contact with the family members to keep them updated on progress being made.

“All families need closure on this matter which is very traumatic, for them especially … I think we should also be aware that two months is actually a very long time, that is why the President felt that let’s speed up this process.

“We should have got these mortal remains a long time ago. That’s why we need to bring them back home. Our hope and trust is that this trip will give the desired results,” added the Minister. – SAnews.gov.za