Statement by International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on developments relating to South African citizens at the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria, 17 September 2014, Imbizo Media Centre, Parliament, Cape Town

Ladies and Gentlemen of the media; fellow South Africans,

We speak to you this afternoon on a matter that has affected our fellow South Africans who had travelled to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Federal Republic of Nigeria.

As the President, His Excellency Mr Jacob Zuma, confirmed last night, there were South African citizens amongst those affected when a building at the Synagogue Church of All Nations collapsed on Friday, 12 September 2014.

As per the instruction from President Zuma, Government has activated its disaster management processes and is treating the matter with the utmost urgency. The Government understands fully the pain and anguish of affected families; and we are walking this difficult and painful path hand in hand with the families.

I am informed that there are 85 of our citizens who still remain unaccounted for; and we fear that a significant number of this 85 are amongst the deceased based on the nature and extent of the calamity. The 85 includes the 67 that we believe to have lost their lives. 10 have been positively identified using their passports. All efforts are underway to identify the deceased. Government will work with the families to do this. And this may take some time.  

The South African Consul-General in Lagos has been working around the clock, visiting the scene, liaising with the leadership of the church and other authorities. In addition, the South African High Commission in the capital, Abuja, has seconded staff to Lagos to provide assistance to the Consul-General.

I am also able to confirm that an advance team of disaster management personnel is on the way to Lagos. In Pretoria, an inter-departmental team has been put together to coordinate all Government activities relating to the calamity.  

As President Zuma said last night, the Government commends all affected families for their patience and resolve during this very painful period. The information they are providing will go a long way in helping us to find closure to this heart-breaking tragedy.

As the advance team of emergency personnel is making way to Lagos, we appeal in the interim for family members and friends to send pictures of their affected loved ones to the Operations Room that has been set up at DIRCO. The email address for this purpose is consular@dirco.gov.za. The operations centre has been beefed with more officials to handle the large volume of calls. The number is 012 351 1000. We are trying all avenues and means to help as much as we can and as quickly as possible under the circumstances.

I would like to conclude by making an appeal to all families, friends and colleagues of our affected compatriots that the calamity we are dealing may take time to resolve completely given its extent and nature. We fully understand the pain and concern of loved ones; we share the hurt of suspense and uncertainty.  

I thank you.

Enquiries: Mr Clayson Monyela, 082 884 5974

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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