President Jacob Zuma says Nigerian Prophet TB Joshua should be spared criticism for the collapse of a church building which resulted in the deaths of at least 84 South Africans.
“The outpouring of criticism is unwarranted and calls for the Public Protector to be deployed to Nigeria are a gross over reaction,” the president said.
In a statement released by the presidency on Thursday, Zuma said now was not the time to lose faith.
“We might have lost lives but, hey, we do have a nuclear deal with Russia,” Zuma said.
The president’s comments are likely to draw intense backlash following the death of 115 people, including 84 South Africans at the church complex almost two weeks ago.
Reports suggests that the Synagogue Church Of All Nations refused entry to emergency workers at the time, infuriating people desperate to know the fate of their family members.
Zuma said South Africans needed to rise above their personal grief and show sympathy for Nigerians’ daily battle with corruption, poor workmanship and a pompous government.
“Mistakes happen. Buildings fall. I don’t think we understand how good we have it here,” the president said.
“Show me one pothole and I will show you what you’re smoking.”
The chain of events following the incident have been cloaked in confusion and secrecy. Days have passed and still little is still known about the cause of the collapse.
“Witnesses say a building fell. This is mostly what we are certain about,” said an engineer at the scene.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Church described Zuma’s decision as commendable.
“We must accept that God works in mysterious ways,” said the spokesperson, who preferred to be seen but named.
TB Joshua, one of Africa’s poorest preachers, with an estimated worth of between $10-million and $15-million, is particularly known for scrubbing away HIV, solving marital issues and raising the dead.
Observers say he has been making a killing for years.
“The Prophet” as he is known, has thousands of followers across the continent, including Julius Malema, Winnie Madikazela-Mandela, several Springbok rugby players and puppet Chester Missing.
“You would be surprised who pulls the strings,” the spokesperson said, gesturing with his fingers like an awkward choir-boy.
A source in the Nigerian government told the Daily Vox that President Goodluck Jonathan was “still deciding whether to set up an independent commission of enquiry”.
It is hoped that such a commission would drag on long enough for victims’ families to move on, the source said.
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– Featured image via Facebook