Nigerian collapse: SA govt denies repatriation deal

The Mail & Guardian raised questions about whether minister Jeff Radebe traded with the Nigeria.

FILE: A victim of the Nigerian church collapse is stretchered into the Steve Biko Academic Hospital, Monday 22 September 2014, Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Government on Friday denied reports there have been hidden negotiations with Nigeria in bringing home the bodies of those crushed to death in the tragic church collapse.

The _Mail & Guardian _newspaper raised questions about whether Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe traded with Nigerian authorities.

The report suggests he offered to unblock an arms deal in exchange for a faster repatriation process for around 80 victims.

The building at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) collapsed on 12 September, killing 115 people, including 81 South Africans.

Government spokesperson Phumla Williams says, "At no stage was there any buttering which was done by the Nigerians. The brief has always been that they must work on the repatriating of the 81 South Africans that died in Nigeria."

The bodies of 11 more South African victims are yet to be returned due to delayed DNA tests.

The collapse occurred when three extra storeys were being added to the existing two of a guest house of the church compound.

Led by the charismatic "Prophet" TB Joshua, the Lagos Pentacostal church attracts a global following of Christians who believe Joshua is able to perform miracles, including curing the ill and raising the dead from the grave.

An inquiry is still underway to determine what caused the tragedy.

The SCOAN meanwhile maintains the collapse was caused by "evil forces".

Nigeria has a history of building collapses due to shoddy construction, with 130 reported incidents from 2007 to 2012 in Lagos alone.