Tongaat Mall owner must wait until May

2015-03-06 08:52
Tongaat Mall (File, AP)

Tongaat Mall (File, AP) (AP)

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Durban - Jay Singh, the man behind the ill-fated Tongaat Mall, will have to wait until at least the end of May before he finds out who might be prosecuted in connection with the mall's collapse.

Singh, who spent four days before a department of labour commission of inquiry, defended himself and his company and repeatedly laid the blame for the mall's collapse on design engineer Andre Ballack.

But only after Singh's lawyer, those of the municipality and that of Andre Ballack have delivered their closing arguments on 27 March, will labour department occupational health and safety manager Phumudzo Maphaha begin drafting his report for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Maphaha heads up the three-month commission that was tasked with investigating the events that led to the partial collapse of the mall which killed two people and injured 29 on 19 November 2013.

He said it would take him about a month to finalise his report before submitting it to the DPP and it could take the DPP another month to decide whether anyone should be prosecuted.

During the commission's sessions over the past year it emerged that concrete at several places was below strength and the reinforcing steel from one beam was missing.

‘Always going to collapse’

However on Thursday, Singh, who was the last witness to testify, told the commission that the mall was always going to collapse, even if the concrete had the required strength and steel bars.

Singh said he still believed that poor design by engineer Ballack meant the mall would collapse.

"Even if it had the full bars or the strength it was still going to collapse," he said.

Singh is the chief executive of Gralio Precast (Pty) Ltd which was building the mall.

The inquiry has heard that the beam that collapsed, called beam seven, only had seven of the required 19 steel bars. Many of the concrete samples taken from the site failed to meet the required strength of 30 megapascals.

Maphaha suggested that a column, identified as column 319, cracked, causing greater load on beam seven, which it could not support because of the weak concrete.

Singh maintained the problem was with column 243 which his experts had said was poorly designed. It was then that Singh said the mall would have collapsed in any event.

Old drawings

On Wednesday it emerged that Gralio may have been using old drawings while building the mall. Singh was ordered to bring the drawings his company used to the commission on Thursday.

Singh on Thursday said he had newer drawings, but because there had been no changes to the columns, the old drawings were used for the columns.

During re-examination by Singh's lawyer Saleem Khan, Singh said he had trusted his foreman Ronnie Pillay, backed up by inspections by Ballack, to ensure the job was completed properly.

Asked if he accepted personal responsibility, he said he did not.

Singh was told by Maphaha that he would have to wait about 90 days before he could take possession of the site and that would be subject to the DPP's approval.

Read more on:    durban  |  tongaat mall collapse

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