Mall holds its secrets

2013-11-26 00:00

EMERGENCY teams have been moved off the site of the collapsed Tongaat mall while the Labour Department continues to clear rubble and investigate the cause of the disaster.

A week after the mall’s three storey car park collapsed, killing two and injuring 29, it is believed no more victims are trapped under the mountain of concrete slabs and steel works.

However, officials have not completely ruled out the possibility of finding more bodies, and have emergency personnel on standby.

Labour spokesperson Nhlanhla Khumalo said an “investigator has been appointed”, however he could not determine how long the investigation will take.

City spokesperson Thabo Mofokeng confirmed the city is busy “preparing papers” in order to pursue the developer — Rectangle Property Investments — who failed to adhere to a Durban high court order obtained by the council and served on the developer on November 14 for failing to have approved building plans.

Rectangle Investments is owned by Ravi Jagadasan, son of Durban business mogul and tender magnate Daniel “Jay” Singh, while the construction company managing the development when it collapsed, Gralio Precast, is owned by Singh’s wife Shireen Annamalay.

“We should be ready to take the matter to the Durban high court next week where we will seek a contempt of court order [against Rectangle Investments]. We are also waiting for a final report from engineers on the site on whether we can seek an order to demolish the building or not,” said Mofokeng.

Singh’s construction companies have scored R686 million from over a dozen eThekwini low-cost housing contracts in the last decade, “always” with the lowest bids — and almost every development has been dogged by cracked walls, massive cost overruns, resident outrage and blatant planning irregularities. Yet he has built so much, so fast, in the past 12 years that Singh has literally changed the landscape west and north of Durban, with over 7 000 houses in Phoenix alone.

In the wake of the tragedy, the city’s leadership has spoken of “blacklisting” Singh-linked companies.

Tongaat SAPS spokesperson Lieutenant Mandy Govender said all rescue teams are “on standby”.

“No one else is unaccounted for, but we are not ruling out the fact that more people could be buried [under the concrete],” said Govender.

Yesterday the Democratic Alliance called on Economic Development MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu to “fire” the board of Ithala Development Bank for allegedly financing another project linked to Singh — the failed Dolphin Whispers development — to the tune of R83 million for being “in direct contravention of the development bank’s standard operating procedures”.

The Dolphin Whispers development, a proposed eight-storey luxury apartment building in the Durban Point precinct, hit a snag in 2007 when the architect and an engineer refused to sign a certificate for the project after finding serious structural defects. Singh’s Prainder Civils and Earthworks CC was the site contractor at the time. Among the development’s investors was former president Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter, Nandi Mandela.

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