Catholic Church in South Africa Offering Counseling, Emotional Support to Mudslide Victims

Credit: FS Provincial Government

Jagersfontein community members affected by the mudslide reportedly triggered by the collapse of a tailings dam wall are devastated and traumatized, the Parish Priest of Kriste Morena Catholic Church of South Africa’s Bloemfontein Archdiocese who has been providing counseling and emotional support to the victims has said.

In a Monday, September 19 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Michael Mapulanga highlighted other ways in which the Archdiocese of Bloemfontein and officials of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) have been supporting the mudslide victims, through visits and offering them legal assistance.

“What the Church has been doing so far is to offer counseling and emotional support. I have been visiting the people who were taken to the local hospital and noticed that many of the victims are traumatized because of what has happened, so I spend time listening to them, praying with them, offering psychological support,” Fr. Mapulanga said.

The Sunday, September 11 Jagersfontein mine dam collapse that left hundreds of community members homeless, has claimed the lives of at least three people and four persons are yet to be accounted for, the country’s public broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation  (SABC), has reported.

Although the government has set up a temporary food and clothing bank, the people are traumatized and need counseling, said Fr. Mapulanga.


“People need emotional support, psychological support, material support, toiletries and clothing,” he said, and added, “People would come up to me and say, Father, what you see me wearing is all I have because I had to run for my life, the house is no longer there, everything was swept away.”

The Zambian-born member of the Congregation of Missionaries of Africa described the September 11 incident as “devastating”, as those affected by the mudslide “lost absolutely everything”.

In the September 19 interview, Fr. Mapulanga told ACI Africa that the community is grateful for the support from the Catholic Church.

He said that the victims were specifically “very happy” with the Monday, September 12 solidarity visit of Archbishop Zolile Peter Mpambani of Bloemfontein Archdiocese, followed by a visit from a delegation from the Commission for Justice and Peace of SACBC.

The Catholic Priest also expressed gratitude for “the support from the Vicar General and other Priests from the Archdiocese”, who were among the first to “call me and ask whether I was okay, if there is anything they can do to help.”

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“The collapse of the Jagersfontein mine dam has sparked anger among community members” affiliated to different political parties as “some were saying that they have raised concerns about the mine dam to the ruling party, but the government was not able to assist,” Fr. Mapulanga further said,

He added, “Political parties tried to use the incident to gain political scores.”

In a separate interview with ACI Africa, the Director of the SACBC Commission for Justice and Peace, Fr. Stan Muyebe, said, “The solidarity visit offered an opportunity to do an assessment of the situation on the ground and explore possibilities of the Church working with the affected communities to demand justice and accountability from the mine owners and the government.”

“We are planning to go back to Jagersfontein this week with the lawyers to meet with the victims. We have also assessed the situation to see how we can help the affected community to rebuild their homes and livelihoods,” Fr. Stan said during the Monday, September 19 interview.

Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.