Stellenbosch lab conducts DNA analysis

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pretoria – The DNA samples gathered from the 116 people who died in the collapse of the building in Nigeria over a month ago have arrived at a laboratory in Stellenbosch for analysis.

Minister of Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation, Jeff Radebe, said the laboratory, which has been appointed by the Nigerian government to conduct the DNA 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 the tragedy,” said the Minister during a media briefing in Cape Town on Thursday.

He said only when the DNA analysis process has been finalised will the South African government be able to conclusively identify South Africans from amongst the 116 people who died in the 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,” said Minister Radebe.

Among the 116 dead people, who died when the guesthouse belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Nigeria collapsed, 81 are believed to be South Africa.

A total of 85 bodies will be repatriated to South Africa, including three Zimbabwean and one Democratic Republic of the Congo nationals, at the request of their respective governments.

Minister Radebe said government was aware that with each passing day the waiting became more difficult, especially for the directly affected families. “We wish to start by thanking families of the deceased for their patience and cooperation.”

He said government reiterated its commitment to making sure the mortal remains of South Africans are brought back home for burial by their families and communities.

As part of the preparation for the repatriation of the mortal remains, the Inter-Ministerial Task Team met with the political representatives of provincial governments on 13 October to brief them on progress made so far in assisting families as well as the repatriation process.

Minister Radebe said the meeting was important as it is expected that provincial governments will play an important role in supporting families once the mortal remains are dispatched to their respective provinces.

He said once the process of identification through DNA testing is concluded and the Nigerian authorities give authorisation for the release the mortal remains, the National Joint Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) will deploy a team to that country to finalise all necessary and administrative processes and to prepare the mortal remains for their journey to South Africa.

The team will comprise of the National Disaster Management Centre, South African Military Health Service, Department of Health and SAPS Division: Forensic Service.

This preparatory work may take up to seven days to complete from the time the team arrives 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 vehicles that are suitably equipped for the purpose.

“Upon 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 – 7 hour flight back home.”

Once they arrive at the Air Force Base Waterkloof, the bodies will be transported by road to their respective provinces where the families will make their own funeral arrangements.

The Minister said preparations were being made for a formal reception to be held at the Air Force Base and that only family members of the deceased and invited dignitaries will be invited.

“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,” said Minister Radebe. –