South African soldiers transport a pilgrim who sustained injuries in a collapsed church guesthouse in Lagos and was evacuated from Nigeria on 22 September 2014.
JOHANNESBURG - The remains of the Lagos church collapse victims are due to arrive at Air Force Base Waterkloof in Pretoria on Sunday morning, government spokesperson Phumla Williams told PowerFm on Thursday. They expected that all the victims&39; remains would be repatriated.
Wednesday marked the two-month anniversary of the Synagogue Church of All Nations guesthouse collapse.
Most of the victims were South Africans on a pilgrimage to TB Joshua&39;s evangelical church in the sprawling Nigerian city, which is the biggest in Africa.
Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe was appointed by President Jacob Zuma as the special envoy charged with negotiating the return of the South African victims&39; remains.
Radebe met with Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja earlier this week and with Lagos governor Babatunde Fashola on Wednesday.
"South African and Nigerian teams are working around the clock to complete the DNA process -- working hard," Williams told the radio station.
"All teams working with the bodies will give the minister (Radebe) a final briefing tomorrow evening. (The) minister is expected to issue a statement later today.
"From government&39;s side, they’re preparing to collect 85 bodies this weekend, (but) if there are any outstanding bodies (due to incomplete DNA analysis), they will not be brought back. Government will then contact those families and inform them."
The aeroplane from SA will be leaving early on Friday morning to fetch the remains, which will then be driven to government mortuaries around the country.
Williams said relatives can collect their loved ones&39; remains from the mortuaries.
"Most of the families can pay for the funerals, (but) social workers are taking stock of those who can’t afford it. It&39;s not a one-size-fits-all exercise. Government is helping those who need the assistance (with funeral arrangements)," she said.
"The process could have gone quicker from the beginning but (we&39;re) not blaming the Nigerian government (because) Nigerian authorities have been cooperating."
Reporting by Georgina Crouth