Faith, joy­ful song and ac­cept­ing loss

Memo­rial held for fam­i­lies who lost loved one in church col­lapse


E HAD waited two months to bury the re­mains of his wife. But a week be­fore Win­nie Mbatha’s body ar­rived back in the coun­try from La­gos, Nige­ria, her hus­band, Colin Mbatha, was dead.

Fam­ily mem­bers say he died from a bro­ken heart.

Mbatha was among 116 peo­ple – 85 of them South Africans – who died on Septem­ber 12 when a guest house be­long­ing to TB Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Na­tions col­lapsed.

She was trav­el­ling with her sis­ter and niece when she died. Her sis­ter Martha Tholo sur­vived the tragedy, but her niece Eve­lyn Maluka also per­ished.

Twenty-six in­jured South Africans re­turned home a month ago. Twenty of them have since been dis­charged from hos­pi­tal.

Sev­enty-four of the bod­ies were repa­tri­ated at the week­end.

Yes­ter­day, Mongo Marumo said she and her fam­ily had found clo­sure as soon as the re­mains of her aunt and cousins were handed to them.

“One other thing that re­lieves my heart is the fact that my aunt is with God. She lived for God. It is just sad that we will never see her again,” she said.

“My aunt went to Nige­ria to pray for our fam­ily. It was her first trip to Nige­ria. I don’t think there will ever be some­one like her, or some­one to re­place her in the fam­ily.

“Colin was fine all along. But after hear­ing about

Hmy aunt’s death, his health suf­fered a bit.

“At first we thought it was some­thing light. We re­alised it was se­ri­ous when he died,” she said.

The cou­ple will be buried in Soweto on Sun­day, while Maluka will be buried in Le­na­sia a day be­fore their in­ter­ment.

Marumo and her fam­ily were among 22 other Gaut­eng fam­i­lies who at­tended the provin­cial gov­ern­ment-or­gan­ised memo­rial ser­vice.

Gaut­eng Premier David Makhura asked those present to pray for the fam­i­lies who were wait­ing for the re­main­ing 11 bod­ies of their kin to re­turn to the coun­try.

“Let us be their source of strength. We are not go­ing to rest, as a gov­ern­ment, un­til those bod­ies are brought back,” he said.

Simultaneously, a memo­rial ser­vice was held in Lim­popo at the Ngoako Ra­matl­hodi Sports Com­plex in Seshego out­side Polok­wane.

Yes­ter­day’s memo­rial ser­vice be­gan on a solemn note. Mourn­ers re­mained silent while Nathan Ti­tus per­formed Amer­i­can singer Josh Groban’s song You Raise Me Up to start the event in style.

So­cial De­vel­op­ment MEC Joyce Mashamba, in the role of pro­gramme di­rec­tor, urged the au­di­ence to cel­e­brate their fam­i­lies’ lives rather than fo­cus on their deaths.

“There will never be another time to cel­e­brate them,” she said.

Mo­ments later, gospel singer and pres­i­dent of Al­binism Fo­rum Lim­popo, Rap­son Ram­buwani, had the au­di­ence eat­ing out of the palm of his hand. He had almost ev­ery­one singing along with him to You are Al­pha and Omega.

Gospel artist Ross­lyn Sathekge’s per­for­mance of Mookamedi ya Re­nang ( Sov­er­eign Lord), a popular Se­sotho hymn, got Premier Stan Matha­batha, his wife Mar­garet and other dig­ni­taries croon­ing along.

The SAPS brass band added their melody with the sound of trum­pets and drums.

The young­sters who make up the Seshego Gospel Choir also de­liv­ered a vi­brant per­for­mance.

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the be­reaved fam­i­lies, Ivan Ram­peiwa, said they had ac­cepted the demise of their loved ones.

Syd­ney Makhani, from Mukum­bani vil­lage in the Vhembe dis­trict, lost his brother’s wife.

He re­vealed that Joshua’s church had sent the fam­i­lies money.

Most of the peo­ple who died will be buried this week­end.



Mongo Marumo, right, talks about her

aunt and cousin, who

died in the col­lapse. With her is a rel­a­tive, Lindiwe Mbatha. HEAL­ING HANDS: Gaut­eng Premier David Makhura, right, Joburg mayor Parks Tau and West Rand mayor Mpho Nawa pray with rel­a­tives of the vic­tims of the La­gos build­ing col­lapse at the Jo­han­nes­burg City Hall yes­ter­day.

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