South African victims, families may sue TB Joshua

2014-09-23
THE PUNCH Newspaper



The Founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Ikotun, Lagos State, Prophet T. B. Joshua, may face a class action suit if a plan by a South African opposition party materialises.

The party, the Democratic Alliance, intends to write to the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, urging her to assist South African victims of the SCOAN building collapse and their families to sue the cleric.

The party, according to its Parliamentarian, Stevens Mokgalapa, believes the church may be criminally liable.

He spoke shortly after some survivors of the tragedy, including two orphaned toddlers, arrived in Pretoria and a call by the South African Minister in Charge of Pretoria, Jeff Radebe, for a probe by the Nigerian Federal Government.

Radebe, who put the death toll from the building collapse at 115, said that 84 South Africans were among.

South African President Jacob Zuma had last week said that 64 of his country men and women perished in the tragedy.

Nkoana-Mashabane was quoted by SABCNews.com as adding that the party felt that many lives could have been saved if rescue work had begun immediately after the building collapsed on September 12.

“The Democratic Alliance is quite saddened and concerned about the reports of alleged negligence from the church in Nigeria just after the collapse of the building there. We also want to get the full disclosure of the assistance of the South African Government and the cooperation of the Nigerian government in as far as the tragedy is concerned,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.

In Pretoria, Radebe stressed the need for the Nigerian government to urgently conclude its probe of the “tragedy,’’ which, according to him, has opened up a diplomatic rift between the two African economic heavyweights.

Speaking after about two-dozen injured South Africans landed in Pretoria, Radebe explained that one of the survivors chose to remain in SCOAN.

He said, “We understand from our assessment team that the total number of people who have perished is now 115, but those are not all South Africans. South Africans are about 84 that have died.”

Reuters quoted him as saying that the plan was to bring back “all the 26 survivors but there were only 25 who actually boarded the aircraft because one returned to the SCOAN on Sunday.”

A 19-member medical team comprising specialised doctors, nurses and medical military paramedics took care of the injured on board a military C-130 aircraft.

“It’s the biggest evacuation effort by the (South African) Air Force since the dawn of democracy,” two decades ago, said Radebe.

He congratulated the work of South African emergency workers for the “biggest evacuation by the air force since the dawn of democracy”.

“We are keenly awaiting as a South African government, the investigation that is being conducted by the Nigerian government so that we get to the bottom of the cause of this disaster,” the minister said.

The C130 SA Air Force plane carrying the injured South Africans arrived at the Swartkop Air Force Base in Pretoria on Monday morning. Apart from the two orphaned toddlers aged 18 months and two years, there was also a six-year-old.

Acting Cabinet spokesperson Phumla Williams said, “These kids, we are expecting that the social development (department) will assist in making sure that they link them up with their relatives,” she told reporters outside the base.

“Yes, there is a process to make sure that they are taken to their families.”

Shortly after the plane landed, an initial batch of the survivors was whisked off to the Steve Biko Academic Hospital . Most of them were carried out of the plane on stretchers and taken to ambulances parked nearby.

But the Public Relations Officer, National Emergency Management Agency, South-West zone, Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, disagreed with Radebe, saying the death toll remained 86.

“We are the ones on the ground and we are sticking to our report that 86 people died and 131 people were injured. We coordinated the rescue operation and we have no other statement to issue,” Farinloye said.

 

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