Radebe made special envoy to Nigeria

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has appointed Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe as a special envoy to Nigeria to try to expedite the repatriation of 85 South Africans killed in a church building collapse.

"I will hold meetings with the Nigerian federal government authorities as well as the Lagos state authorities with a view to expedite the repatriation process," Radebe told journalists at Parliament on Thursday after Cabinet's regular fortnightly Wednesday meeting.

The 85 were among 116 people killed when a guest house attached to TB Joshua's church collapsed in Lagos on September 12.

Families of the victims had been waiting almost a month for the remains of their loved ones to be returned home.

"We would like to reassure the families and South Africans at large that government has not taken the foot off the pedal," Radebe said.

"President Zuma's appointment of myself as South Africa's special envoy demonstrates government's unwavering commitment to return their loved ones home for a proper send off."

Two weeks ago, Radebe said DNA samples of the deceased were being analysed at a laboratory in Stellenbosch.

Government was unaware of how far the process was.

"That process is exclusively within the jurisdiction of the Nigerian authorities," said Radebe.

"We depend on the information we get from the Nigerian authorities... and it's for that reason the president has appointed myself as a special envoy so that we can get more details as to where this process is."

A preparatory team was in Lagos to facilitate the repatriation, which would only start once the Nigerian authorities released the bodies.


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