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.