Now is not the time to discuss the granting of a visa allowing Nigerian preacher TB Joshua to enter South Africa, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said on Wednesday. He was responding to a question on what government planned to do about a call to deny the man in charge of the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos permission to enter the country.
Around 115 people, including 84 South Africans, were killed and dozens trapped when a multi-storey guesthouse attached to the church collapsed on September 12. Joshua, one of Nigeria’s best-known evangelical preachers, referred to by followers across the world as “The Prophet” or “The Man of God”, last Sunday pledged to travel to South Africa to meet the survivors and their families.
Radebe, who was updating reporters in Pretoria on the identification and repatriation of South Africans killed in the disaster, said the matter would be discussed at a later stage.
“Our main pre-occupation at the moment, as government, is to bring back the mortal remains of 84 citizens to South Africa. That issue [of a visa] will be entertained at a later stage…,” he said.
The ANC Youth League on Tuesday called on government not to issue Joshua a visa.
“TB Joshua should not be allowed to come to South Africa until we know what happened to our fellow countrymen at his church,” spokesperson Bandile Masuku said in a statement at the time.
Radebe, who heads an interministerial team tasked by President Jacob Zuma to manage the disaster, was more forthcoming on the matter of a mass memorial service for the victims.
“At the moment we are working with family members. We will respect their wishes about what they want to do. So we have not, as yet, reached that point,” he said, responding to a question on whether government would consider such a ceremony.
“But it is very obvious that this is a national tragedy, and all South Africans are grieving over the death of so many. So it is a matter that government will be discussing at an appropriate time,” he said. SAPA