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Synagogue Building Collapse South African Media Blasts T.B. Joshua, Federal Government

In a report titled ‘Blood on their hands’, Sunday Times said the management of the tragedy has been characterised by chaos, incompetence and lies

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The South African media have come down hard on the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) and its founder, T.B. Joshua, the federal and state government and rescue agencies in Nigeria.

It was gathered that the Guardian, Mail to Sowetan and Sunday Times are of the opinion that the tragic incident was handled with levity.

In a report titled ‘Blood on their hands’, Sunday Times said the management of the tragedy has been characterised by chaos, incompetence and lies.

“As the first full picture of the horror of the Nigerian church collapse surfaces, South Africans are left wondering how many lives could have been saved if Pastor TB Joshua’s church and Nigerian authorities had co-operated fully in rescue attempts,” the newspaper said.

South African Minister Jeff Radebe yesterday urged the Federal Government to investigate the “tragedy”. Radebe said 84 South Africans who were part of visiting church groups had died in the September 12 incident. He was speaking at an air force base north of Johannesburg where 25 South Africans who were injured returned for treatment.

Other newspapers, such as The City Press, also blasted the Synagogue church for not co-operating with rescue agencies.

Mail & Guardian on Sunday, however, said the rescue efforts later improved, but it was too late.

The newspaper said:  “Nigerian authorities and church members have made a U-turn on co-operating with South Africans at the collapsed guesthouse tragedy, following a diplomatic skirmish, which saw an entire week fritter away while vital efforts to save lives were blocked.

“A diplomatic source from South Africa confirmed that the Nigerian authorities have proven to be far more co-operative since Friday, a week after the devastating collapse that has seen the largest number of South Africans killed outside of the country since even the downing of the Helderberg airliner in 1987 which killed 71 South Africans.”

“The stress on scarce skills in the field followed the shock decision by Nigerian authorities to turn down help from South Africa earlier in the week, including one of the continent’s best search and rescue teams.

“Search and Rescue South Africa was placed on standby by the department of international relations, Sunday Times reported, but by Sunday last week it was too late.

“Gift of the givers, a South African-based Islamic relief organisation, were initially blocked in their efforts to access mortuaries and hospitals in Lagos to find South African hurt and deceased South Africans.

“In addition, the crucial 24 hours after the collapse, when survivors could have been found in the rubble, was missed as information about the collapse was at a black-out with Nigerian authorities failing to communicate with their South African counterparts in time, and church staff and goers proving downright hostile.”

The paper said building collapses happen repeatedly in Nigeria “because of the use of substandard material and flouted construction regulations”.

Mail & Guardian added: “It is believed that the building was in the process of having additional stories added without first securing the foundations, although Joshua has blamed it on a mysterious attack, citing the appearance of an aircraft above the building shortly before the collapse.”

The South African Press Association, the country’s news agency, also did an unflattering profile of Prophet Joshua, which were run by some of the local newspapers. The profile said Joshua claims he has power to cure anything, from AIDS to cancer.

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