Desperate George tragedy victims seek help from prophet Bushiri

Desperate Malawian families of the George tragedy victims who feel abandoned by their embassies say they are trying to get fugitive prophet Shepherd Bushiri to intervene in assisting with the repatriation of the bodies.

Bushiri, the founder of the popular Enlightened Christian Gathering church and his wife Mary, fled South Africa in November 2020 while out on R200 000 bail. They were facing charges of fraud, money laundering and theft worth more than R102-million at the time. Bushiri, who is a fugitive from justice, is now back home in Malawi.

The families of the construction workers said they were still struggling to repatriate the bodies to Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi due to financial challenges.

Sunday World understands that the families reached out to their countries’ embassies to assist them with the repatriation process, however, their pleas have not yielded any result.

At least 34 people were killed when a high rise luxury apartment building under construction collapsed and buried more than 60 people under a pile of rubble in the Western Cape town a fortnight ago.

Philemon Mruwari, the brother-in-law of the Malawian deceased, Mercy Mtambo, said her body was still in a mortuary in George as they could not repatriate it due to financial challenges.

“We have reached out to the Malawian high commission to assist but we have hit a dead end as we are not getting any help at all. We are on our own, as we are trying all we can as the Malawian community here in George through door-to-door contributions to assist.

“The government of Malawi is still not giving us clear answers on its intention to assist with
repatriation. We even wish that [Prophet Shepherd] Bushiri could help us in this situation, as we know his goodwill. We are trying to get hold of him,” said Mruwari.

Malawian deputy high commissioner Panji Chirwa told Sunday World on Friday that 11 Malawian nationals were killed in the tragedy, stating that five of them were women, while six were men.

Chirwa said that the high commission has met with the relatives of the deceased who are based in South Africa, and also made contact with the friends of the deceased with no relatives in the country, who in turn informed families in Malawi about the tragedy.

“The assistance offered by the Malawi high commission to the victims includes coordinating with officials from relevant departments in Malawi for repatriation of the bodies, verifying identification documents, providing psychosocial support, and coordinating with relevant officials in South Africa to ensure that repatriation of the bodies should be smooth and that the identification of the bodies is accurate,” said Chirwa.

Zimbabwe and Mozambique embassies did not respond to enquiries on their plans to assist victims of the disaster and their families.

Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) spokesperson Clayson Monyela said the expectation is that the embassies of the victims would then get involved and assist the families affected.

“They have a task of assisting their citizens who are in distress, including those in South Africa. Embassies do not need to speak to Dirco in that regard, as it is their responsibility to do what is right,” Monyela said.

AVBOB’s George representative, Gert Niehaus, said the undertaker had taken a responsibility of storing 31 bodies, and also provided a coffin and -embalming, which could have cost families R18 000, however that was provided for free as part of the company’s corporate social investment.

“As AVBOB, we have stored 31 bodies from South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi respectively. So far, we have buried all nine South Africans, and two bodies of Malawian nationals were repatriated. Seven Mozambican nationals are still stored at our facility. We have 18 bodies still stored at our mortuary.

Arrangements for repatriation of the remaining bodies to Lesotho, Mozambique and Malawi are still being dealt with by the embassies of those countries,” said Niehaus.

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