It was absolutely criminal the Nigerian government had taken so long to repatriate the bodies of those killed back to South Africa, Inkatha Freedom Party secretary general Sibonigile Nkomo said in a statement.
“Families were not only torn apart by this tragedy but now have to endure the added anguish of not yet being able to lay their loved ones to rest.”
Phumla Williams, spokeswoman for the inter-ministerial committee on Nigeria, said it was believed of the 85 killed, 81 were South Africans, three were from Zimbabwe, and one from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It was believed the Zimbabweans and Congolese had gone to Nigeria on South African travel documentation.
“We can only confirm the exact number once the verification process is confirmed and the Nigerian authorities are currently busy with that process,” Williams said.
On Thursday, Radebe told journalists at Parliament that President Jacob Zuma had appointed him as a special envoy to Nigeria to expedite the return of the bodies.
“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 said at the time.
The 85 were among 116 people killed when a guest house attached to TB Joshua’s church collapsed in Lagos on September 12.
“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.”
Nkomo said Radebe had a duty to the people of South Africa to see to it that the repatriation was expedited within the next few days.
“The time for diplomacy is over. It has been nearly 60 days since the church collapsed,” she said.
“The families who lost their loved ones must have closure.”