Stripping of supports at Tongaat ‘death mall’ not authorised, inquiry hears

2014-02-13 19:17

The Tongaat “death mall” inquiry today heard that supports on the concrete slab that had collapsed, killing two people and injuring 29, had been removed without the go-ahead of the health and safety consultant working on the project.

Ismiel van Zyl, a health and safety consultant employed by Rectangle Property Investments, the developer of the mall, said he had not authorised any “stripping’’ of the supports on the slab, which collapsed on October 13 last year.

Rectangle Property Investments is owned by Ravi Jagadasen, son of Durban tenderpreneur Jay Singh.

Van Zyl told the department of labour inquiry, held at the Tongaat civic centre, that he had been employed by Singh on a part-time basis to bring their health and safety regime in line with departmental standards.

He said he had not been aware of any changes in the building plan and that, had he known about them, he would have ordered that work stop until he had drawn up a new safety plan for the site – run by Singh’s ex-wife, Shireen Annamaly’s Gralio Precast.

Singh, Jagadasan and Anna Maly were not present at today’s hearing, which also heard evidence from Rishen Naidoo, whose company, Frasernet, provided the cabling for slab support when concrete was being poured.

Under examination by inquiry chair Phumudzo Maphaha, Naidoo said while he, engineer Andre Ballack and his foreman should have signed off on each of ten concrete pourings, the engineer had only been present to sign off on one.

Naidoo told the inquiry he had been asked to perform inspections on Ballack’s behalf as “a favour’’ and had done so.

He said that he had discovered that the slab that had collapsed did not have sufficient reinforcing in it – and described the work of the steel fixer on the project as “incompetent’’.

The hearing will continue tomorrow with evidence from an engineer employed by Gralio’s legal team to provide their version of what had gone wrong and caused the collapse.

It will also hear testimony from Sipho Mbuyisa, the steel contractor on the project, before adjourning until April.

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