Statement By KZN Provincial Executive Following The Tragic Collapse Of The Pentecostal Holiness Church In Umhlathuze By Hon. Tw Mchunu Premier Of Kzn
22 APRIL 2019
Ladies and gentlemen of the media
Thank you for availing yourselves for this media briefing following the conclusion of a special cabinet meeting held today to reflect upon one of the worst tragedies to befall this province in recent years.
As the Provincial Executive and as citizens of KZN, we are still reeling from the tragedy of the collapsed wall at the Pentecostal Holiness Church outside Empangeni which has claimed the lives of 13 worshippers at the start of the Easter weekend. This was supposed to be a time for celebration of the Resurrection, not a time for mourning of those who came to celebrate.
This tragedy is unprecedented in its scale of fatalities but also in its timing. The front wall of the church collapsed at around 22:15 on Thursday 18 April 2019 as a result of a severe thunderstorm which was accompanied by strong winds in the area that had undermined the structural foundations of the building.
We would like to commend the first responders to the incident for the speed of their emergency response and their dedication. They included members of the SAPS, Department of Health (EMS), and Disaster Management (Fire and Rescue Units). The rescue and recovery operations were conducted until the early hours of Friday 19 April 2019.
Despite these heroic efforts, 13 people were declared dead as a result of the structural collapse of the church premises and these include: Samkelisiwe Mzila (female) from Ulundi, Nokuthula Hlongwane (female) from Umngeni (Howick), Bongekile Masondo (female) from Ulundi, Thandazo Dube (female) from Ulundi, Minenhle Mdluli (female) from Ulundi, Nonkanyiselo Shandu (female) from Ulundi, Mthabela Andiswa (boy) from Umlalazi, Thembi Mthabela (female) from Umlalazi, Alta Langa (female) from Umlalazi, Lungi Mcambi (female) from Umhlathuze, Ntando Mlondo (female) from Umhlathuze, Thule Ncube (female) from Umhlathuze, and Alice Mhlongo (female) from Umhlathuze.
What is even more deeply saddening about this disaster is that 12 of the deceased are women and a young child. We have basically lost the genesis of our society mothers, sisters and wives - May their souls rest in perfect peace!
The deceased were transported to a government mortuary in Richards Bay. In the meantime, the critically injured people were transported to the Ngwelezane Hospital and others were treated for minor injuries in Ngwelezane Clinic.
Those that are still in hospital include Sibani Phiri (12), admitted with fractures in the Orthopaedic ward, Busisiwe Zikhali (69), admitted with fractures in the Orthopaedic ward, Nokukhanya Simelane (14), admitted with fractures in the Orthopaedic ward, Nikiwe Mama (50), admitted with pelvic fracture in the Intensive Care Unit, and Agrineth Buthelezi (61) admitted with pelvic and rib fracture in the Intensive Care Unit. All of them are receiving round the clock care from our dedicated hospital staff and we are wishing them a speedy recovery.
Following the news of this tragedy, received through our provincial Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) under the leadership of MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube, a high-powered delegation from the National and the Provincial Government visited the scene on Friday 19 April 2019. Its members included National Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant, Minister of Cogta Dr Zweli Mkhize, Provincial MEC for Health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, the Mayors of Zululand, King Cetshwayo Districts and Members of Provincial Legislature as well as National Assembly.
The leadership from the three spheres of government inspected the site and provided comfort and support to the church dignitaries, congregants and bereaved families that have been directly affected by this unprecedented disaster. Additional visits have been taken to the hospital to comfort the injured and their families.
We are advised that Forensic teams are still busy with their investigative reports on this horrific accident and we will communicate the outcomes once all processes are concluded.
During its special session today, the Provincial Executive was also apprised of another tragic incident involving a motor vehicle which claimed five lives also in the same district municipality.
The Provincial Executive has made the following resolutions:
● Government will provide a uniform support to all the bereaved families including those involved in the motor vehicle tragedy. The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs will lead the coordination on behalf of government.
● We are in constant communication with the Bishops and Leadership of the Pentecostal Holiness Church and we have proposed a number of actions that will unfold as we prepare to give a fitting send-off to our departed citizens.
● Tomorrow, Government and the Church will support the affected families as they visit the Mortuary in uMhlathuze to identify their loved ones. Our various departments including Health and Social Development will be there to provide psycho-social support and medical care. There will also be a prayer service. This will commence from 9h00AM tomorrow in Richards bay.
● On Thursday a memorial services for all the victims including of those of our citizens involved in the road accident will take place in Empangeni.
● Government has set-up an operation centre in Richard Bay, where support to all the victims will be coordinated from
● We will by Thursday after all discussions with families and the church have been concluded announce funeral details.
As we reflect on this tragedy as the Provincial Executive, we would like to extend our deepest gratitude to all first responders to the scene of the incident, including the SAPS, the medical teams from the Department of Health and the disaster management teams from Cogta. We also appreciate the outpouring of messages of support from across the globe and from all the good Samaritans that are coming forward to offer various forms of support to the families.
This catastrophe has clearly underlined the need for communal support during these difficult times. The government and municipalities have been working with the church and the bereaved families to lessen the impact of this disaster. We will continue to do so and we call upon the rest of the province to keep these congregants in their thoughts and prayers.
The Provincial Government continues to engage various role players that can make a meaningful contribution in ensuring that the plight of the affected people is attended to speedily and effectively. Relevant sector departments and other stakeholders are actively participating in their support to the affected families.
This is a time to come together to pray, grieve and to extend a helping hand. Let us all join these efforts to ensure that life in this devastated community returns to normality as soon as possible.
I thank you!
Cecil Msomi on 082 378 2601