Tongaat Mall: employees to take to the stand today

2014-04-02 00:00

THE Tongaat Mall commission of inquiry is expected to enter its second session today as it attempts to find the root causes that led to last year’s disaster.

The commission was set up in the wake of the Tongaat Mall collapse on November 19, 2013. The partially built structure came crashing down, killing two people and injuring 29.

The commission, which began and had run for a week in February, has already found that there were several oversights, ranging from health and safety, missing files, dodgy appointments and a lack of senior staff on site at all times to deal with the complexity of building a multi-storey shopping mall.

Today two more construction employees who were working on the site when it collapsed are expected to take the stand. They are expected to give a detailed report on what happened when the mall collapsed and they will be grilled on the day-to-day working schedule leading up to the disaster.

Tomorrow, municipal officials including the site inspectors, who initially tried to close the site down for failing to having building permission from the eThekwini Metro, will take the stand.

Currently the mall site is being scoured for clues by several structural engineers.

Tony Smith, a structural engineer acting on behalf of the Engineering Council of South Africa, said a meeting was held by the engineers yesterday to ascertain what still needs to be done.

“We will get feedback on what still needs to be done after yesterday’s meeting but in the meantime the engineers are still on site continuing with the investigation,” said Smith.

The mall was being built by Durban tycoon Jay Singh through his construction firm Gralio Precast.

Gralio was found in June 2013 by a provincially commissioned forensic report investigating Durban’s low-cost housing contracts to have provided homes of poor quality.

Singh is only expected to give evidence in June.

The structural investigations, once completed, are expected to apportion blame. During the first phase of the inquiry it became evident that Singh’s legal defence would want to pin the disaster on design engineer Andre Ballack and conversely Ballack’s lawyers attempted to distance Ballack from any fault, in turn pushing it onto Gralio.

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