Many could not fight back tears when names of those killed were called out and a procession of giant mortuary trucks carrying the bodies, slowly drove past the gathering to the tune of the “death march” played by the police band.
A total of 116 people — including 81 South Africans — were killed on September 12 when a multi-storey guesthouse collapsed at a Lagos mega-church.
The bodies were flown home aboard a cargo plane, two months after the accident, leaving behind another 11 victims to be repatriated after the DNA identification process is complete.
People were crushed when the guesthouse that provided lodging for foreign followers of popular Nigerian preacher and televangelist Temitope Balogun Joshua, commonly known as TB Joshua, was reduced to a pile of shattered concrete and twisted metal.
“This is indeed a sombre moment for our nation, the nation is in mourning,” said South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, leading the ceremony in Pretoria.
“This tragedy in many ways has united us in grief, it has reminded us of our shared humanity,” he said.
Ramaphosa shook hands with bereaved family members, many of whom wore white TB Joshua’s church scarves around their necks.
Franzette Saul, who lost her cousin Dan Samuels in the disaster, said the victims had visited the Nigerian preacher in search of salvation.
“They believed he would heal them… then the opposite happened,” said the 31-year-old from Cape Town.
Prophetess Elizabeth Sacharias, who last week took out a full-page advertisement in a newspaper claiming that Namibia would be hit by an earthquake yesterday, is running for cover.
This follows her prediction proving false and being widely ridiculed across social networks by ordinary Namibians and calls for a law to control the public utterances that might cause panic and riots.
A State geophysicist also dismissed the prophetess’s claim of a pending earthquake.
However, she has received some support from controversial Nigerian pastor TB Joshua on his ministry’s Facebook page, where he wrote: “The prophetess in Namibia may have dreamt but the translation is wrong. There is nothing like that. But it is an opportunity to live as if today is your last day on earth.”
The post received more than 21 000 “likes”, 744 “shares” and 1 015 comments as of yesterday.
Prophetess Elizabeth’s church yesterday banned the media from attending a get-together at Groot Aub settlement near Windhoek.
Upon arrival at the church Namibian Sun was greeted by a fleet of luxury vehicles with Windhoek, Swakopmund and Tsumeb number plates.
A row of tents were erected around the brick church structure in which some of the congregants had been sleeping since their arrival at Groot Aub last Thursday.
Prophetess Elizabeth predicted that the earthquake would be of “a high magnitude and will be felt in the entire country”.
She continued: “It will impact our infrastructure. It will cause a lot of destruction. Fire will erupt from beneath the ground while clouds of smoke will be seen coming from the mountains.”
When this did not happen by 15:00 yesterday, Prophetess Elizabeth, who spoke in Oshiwambo, urged those who had come to not question why the earthquake had not struck yet.
“Do not ask why it has not happened yet. Believe in God that it will happen,” she said in a message that was translated in English, Damara-Nama and Afrikaans.
Immediately after asking to speak to her, members of her Ministry of Reconciliation Church became agitated, watching every move of the reporters.
A senior pastor who was called to speak to the media blatantly refused to allow any communication between the reporters and congregants, or for any pictures to be taken.
“She said she does not want to speak to any newspapers and now you have to leave the premises,” he said after spending a couple of minutes within the crowded building.
While the reporters were driving away, ushers rushed the vehicle and demanded that any pictures taken should be deleted from the cameras, after which reporters were allowed to leave.
The embargo on the media yesterday is contrary to claims by Prophetess Elizabeth that she has tried to publicise her message on the earthquake and media houses were not willing to listen.
Meanwhile, it was life as usual for the residents of Groot Aub who could be seen going about their daily business, evidently not minding the earthquake hype going on in their area.
“I went to clear my erf because if this should happen then it happens,” said one resident who added that he was sent away from the church for not wearing the right clothes – a white shirt and black trousers.
The resident said the people from the area are members of other churches but no activities were scheduled by those denominations in view of the earthquake prophecy. According to him, most of the people attending the services that were going on a few metres from his house were outsiders and not residents of Groot Aub.
A member of parliament and chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Evelyn Nawases-Taeyele, said although Namibia has a constitution which gives people freedom of expression, a law is need to limit statements that could throw the nation into a state of panic.
“For the protection of all citizens we need to limit things that can put them in an insecure, uncomfortable and unsafe atmosphere,” Nawases-Taeyele said yesterday.
She further criticised the mushrooming of churches and said a regulatory framework should be considered.
According to Ivo Kahimise, a geophysicist in the Ministry of Mines and Energy, it is geographically impossible for Namibia to experience an earthquake of the magnitude predicted by Prophetess Elizabeth.
“Namibia is not on an earthquake plate where you can expect an earthquake of a high magnitude,” Kahimise explained.
“The last earthquake in Namibia had a 4.5 magnitude in 2012 and the other was in 2009 with a magnitude of 5.6. This [type of] earthquake can only be felt by a few people who are in the area, not the whole country.”