A DESPERATE Bulawayo woman, Catherine Ndlovu, who allegedly paid thousands of dollars to visit Nigeria, seeking divine intervention for her hospitalised daughter has been reported as one of the 115 people confirmed to have died after the collapse of a church building owned by the pastor, TB Joshua.
Yesterday, the family of Ndlovu, 40, accused TB Joshua and his church of giving very little information concerning their sister in the aftermath of the September 12 disaster, including insisting that the mother of two was unharmed and would be returning home alive.
South African Chronicle quoted Ndlovu’s brother Jabulani as saying that, “we called them (TB Joshua church) every day, asking where my sister was and they said she had boarded a plane back to South Africa and would be back last Sunday.
“We became suspicious when other Zimbabweans who had travelled to Nigeria came back via South Africa and she was not part of the group. It became clear they’d been lying to us and withholding information from us all along.”
Ndlovu became the second Zimbabwean to have allegedly died in the disaster after Greenwich Ndanga, the MDC-T chairman for Mashonaland West, was reported to be among the dead by his family.
At least 84 South Africans were allegedly killed and dozens trapped when the multi-storey guesthouse attached to TB Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations caved in.
However, Joshua claimed it was a conspiracy, insisting that a mysterious plane flew, four times, too close to the structure causing the collapse.
TB Joshua, who inspired an almost fanatical devotion from his thousands of followers around the world, who were drawn to his services by claims of miracles and prophecies, had offered to hold services in South Africa once every month, claiming that six out of every 10 visitors to Nigeria from Southern Africa were coming to his church.
But the youth wing of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, yesterday, demanded that he be denied 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,” ANC Youth League spokesperson Bandile Masuku said in a statement.
“We will engage with the department of international relations and co-operation to make sure they do not issue him with a South African visa.”
Ndlovu’s family said she left Zimbabwe on September 11, a day after her 19 year-old daughter, Prioress Tshuma, who had suffered from seizures since 2007, was admitted at Mpilo Central Hospital. She believed the seizures were caused by an evil spirit, and hoped TB Joshua would heal her.
It would have been just hours after she touched down in the Nigerian capital, Lagos, before her life was snuffed out by falling concrete blocks and cement dust – leaving a daughter in hospital and a nine-year-old son, Progress Sibanda, orphaned.
Their uncle, Jabulani, was battling with a lot of questions and accused the church of attempting a clumsy cover-up.
“When we heard news of the collapse, we feared the worst. There was no communication from the church until my cousin, who lives in South Africa, called them.
“They just put up a wall of lies and kept telling us she was safe. It would be only several days later that they confirmed our worst fears,” he said.
But the family’s hope of getting Catherine’s body any time soon were immediately dashed after TB Joshua’s aides asked them to provide a DNA sample for positive identification.
“We don’t even know if that’s true, and our only hope now is that our government can get to the bottom of this. Who knows how many other Zimbabweans have been kept in the dark about their relatives’ fate?”
TB Joshua had been heavily criticized over his handling of the crisis, with aide workers saying they were prevented from accessing the disaster area for several days.
The preacher, however, rejected the lack of co-operation claims as inaccurate.
Instead, he said that “contrary to this, we want to categorically state that the church has provided assistance when and where required and continues to do so: good Christians are good citizens,” he added.