Empangeni - The Pentecostal Holiness Church near Empangeni in Northern KwaZulu-Natal has thanked all South Africans for their support following the death of 13 of its members when a church wall collapsed on congregants during a service on Thursday evening.
"This loss is felt deeply by the families. It is for this reason we thank members of society, community leaders, and leaders of political parties from across all corners of the country for the messages of condolences to the families," the church leadership said in a statement issued after a meeting on Saturday to plan a way forward after the accident.
Thanking President Cyril Ramaphosa, who the church had hosted in June 2018, the statement said, "We appreciate his undivided attention at this critical moment. Importantly, President Ramaphosa called on religious leaders to work together to build our nation. Leaders of political parties who have visited the church include the... ANC, IFP, NFP, and EFF."
The church also expressed gratitude to Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize and KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo, who visited 16 other congregants injured in the wall collapse. The church was praying for the 16 injured people and wished them a speedy recovery.
The church further thanked, particularly, the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government and several municipalities, including King Cetshwayo and Zululand district municipalities, and the Umhlathuze, Ulundi, Umlalazi, and Ndwedwe local municipalities for their speedy intervention in a time of need.
"We commend the emergency teams, including the disaster management personnel, who worked tirelessly since Thursday evening. In particular, we thank the department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs under the leadership of MEC Nomsa Dube-Ncube for activating and coordinating the disaster management teams. We are touched by the spirit of ubuntu which has been displayed by religious leaders of different faiths. We thank religious leaders who have visited the church to offer words of comfort," the statement said.
Turning to the future, the church said it would work with the provincial government under the leadership of the premier Willies Mchunu to coordinate all activities "between now and the day of the funeral".
These included counselling and visits to the affected families, assisting them with identification of the bodies on Tuesday, the memorial service that had been scheduled for Thursday, as well as preparations for the funerals that would take place over the weekend in King Cetshwayo municipality and Zululand district municipality.
The church also listed the names of those who had died. They were Samkelisiwe Mzila, Thandazo Dube, Minenhle Mdluli, Nonkanyiselo Shandu, Nokuthula Hlongwane, all of Ulundi; Alice Mhlongo, Lungi Mcambi, Bongekile Masondo, Ntando Mlondi, Thule Ncube, all of eSikhawini; and Mthabela Andiswa, Thembi Mthabela, and Alta Langa, all of Maqhwakazi.
Government would release a formal report once the investigation into the tragedy had been completed. Lastly, the church also thanked the Zulu royal family for its "immeasurable" support, and "ongoing guidance" from traditional leaders.