Almost 18 months after a building collapse at the church of self-proclaimed prophet TB Joshua in Lagos, Nigeria, left 116 dead and scores injured, a young South African survivor has given up hope of receiving aid.
Vusi Makwele, 27, said he last heard from a Synagogue Church of All Nations (Scoan) representative in October 2014. That was shortly after he returned to South Africa following the tragedy. The church had allegedly promised to help him following his injuries.
Makwele, a human resource honours graduate at the time of his visit to the Scoan in September 2014, said he had gone to the church to change his life. “In that plane, all I was thinking of was my family,” said Makwele.
“I wanted to pray for their problems to go away. But things turned ugly. The trip changed my whole life.” Two days later, Makwele’s life changed forever when a six storey guest house at the church collapsed. Of the close to 120 people who lost their lives, more than 80 were South Africans.
Speculation was rife that the building did not meet construction standards and families of the victims and deceased wanted the popular televangelist to be held accountable. Makwele, who previously worked in a sales department at a retail store, said the tragedy nearly robbed him of his dreams.
“With the job that I had, I was able to pay my bills,” he said. “I was able to support my family. But now, I’m part of the unemployment statistics.” Makwele said of the fateful day: “It was really traumatising, it still is.” He said he did not know how he survived because his injuries were very severe.
“I lost a lot of blood on that day. I’m still scared of storey structures.” He was in hospital for three days in Nigeria, but said he had to pretend to be fine, “just to get out of that city and come home”.
But little did he know how different it would be. Makwele said he had to use crutches to get around. “I could not even walk and as a result, failed to perform my duties at work. I had to be released from my job.”
He refused to go for counselling because he was still confused and in shock, but feels that traumatic incident “messed up” his mind. Makwele says after losing his job, he never received anything from the church.
Kirsten Nematandani, Scoan representative in South Africa, told The Citizen at the time of the collapse that the church focused more on those who lost their lives. “We only focused on ensuring that processes of the funerals were dealt with.”
The families of the deceased each received R50 000.
However, it is understood that people who were severely injured were given more money than the families of those who lost their lives.