Tearful relatives’ agonising wait at scene of disaster 

When Malawian national Wakisa Mruwari heard the building where his wife Mercy Mtambo worked as a secretary and cleaner in George had collapsed, he became worried and panicked. 

Mruwari was devastated to learn that Mtambo, who had been working at the site for a year, was among the more than 33 people killed in the tragedy. 

“I feel very sad and I am powerless because we have a one-year-old baby and my child won’t have a mother to raise her,” he sobbed. 

Mruwari, who stays at Lawaaikamp township near George, says he doesn’t have an idea how he is going to transport his wife’s body back home to Malawi as she had been in the country illegally. 

“I am shattered that I don’t have the means to take the body of my wife to Malawi, as there is a challenge of paperwork. I also do not have legal papers to be in South Africa,” the crestfallen man told Sunday World. 

“We came here to chase our dreams. We wanted to work hard so that we can build a house in Malawi as well as buy a car. However, all the hopes have been dashed by this tragedy,” he said. 

Relatives and friends of the workers killed and trapped in the rubble of the doomed building are still reeling from shock at how their loved ones were killed. 

A fortnight ago, the building site on 75 Victoria Street in George collapsed and covered 81 construction workers with concrete and steel, in a disaster that has shocked the country and the world. 

Since this tragic incident, relatives of the workers frequented the George Local municipality hoping for some news. 

A Lesotho national, Thapelo Lipholo, whose friend Thuso Pakola is still missing, said that he was passionate about life. Lipholo said they had left their home country in search of a better life. 

“We used to live together in Mossel Bay, and due to lack of employment, he came to work at this building. He was also staying on-site in one of the containers as he was a security guard at the building,” said Pakola.  

“Thuso doesn’t have parents anymore but his brothers who are in Gauteng asked me to come and check if he was fine, but I cannot find him even though some are saying that his body was retrieved.  

“I don’t even know how he can be found since the same people in the municipality are sending me from pillar to post. I gave them documents showing his name and his picture but I am not getting assistance at all. This is frustrating and annoying.  

“I am truly sad and my heart is bleeding as I ask myself why I let him leave Mossel Bay to come to George. I agree that we don’t have papers to be in the country but we also deserve to be protected by the same rights that protect South Africans. We didn’t leave Lesotho because we wanted to but we felt that our lives would get better when we were here,” said Lipholo. 

Malawian Gift Tobias said his cousin Chisimo Pito, who is also missing, worked as a carpenter in the building of death and was in high spirits on the day of the collapse. 

“The last time I saw him was on the day that the building collapsed. He had only been working there for three weeks. Now I don’t even know if his body has been found or not, as nobody is giving us answers on what had happened. It is so difficult to  
accept this as we don’t know what happened to him.  

“We went to the mortuary and the hospital, and he was not there. We are now hoping that he can be found in the rubble with those remaining but we are still not sure what we should do,” said Tobias. 

A subcontractor who only identified himself as Andries, a Malawian national, told –Sunday World that he lost two sons in the incident. His wife was injured in the incident and was hospitalised and later discharged. 

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