Tongaat Mall inquiry adjourns before it starts

2014-02-11 14:04

The inquiry into the fatal collapse of the Tongaat Mall developed by companies linked to Durban housing tender boss Jay Singh has been adjourned until tomorrow – before it even got under way.

The inquiry, conducted by the department of labour and sitting at the Tongaat civic centre, had to stand down before it could get under way because of procedural problems concerning legal representation.

Department spokesperson Nhlanhla Khumalo said the delay was to allow new lawyers appointed for some of the workers injured in the collapse, in which two people were killed and 29 injured.

The contractor employing them had earlier retained the same counsel to represent them, which represented a potential conflict of interest, Khumalo said.

The inquiry in terms of section 32 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, is set down until Friday.

It will resume in March and will continue for about six months. It was appointed after the shopping centre collapse, which was allegedly built by Rectangle Property Investments, a company owned by Singh’s oldest son, Ravi Jagadasan, despite the eThekwini municipality’s earlier issuing of two orders to stop the development.

The R208 million shopping centre development allegedly proceeded without proper plans being approved.

The hearing will resume tomorrow, when witnesses will be called to ascertain what had caused the collapse of the structure and whether or not any criminal action should be taken against the owners of Rectangle or any other contactor involved in the project. Up to 50 witnesses may be asked to give evidence before occupational health and safety expert Phumudzo Maphaha.

Lawyers representing Rectangle are understood to have already submitted documentation putting forward their version of events to the inquiry.

On Friday, the Durban High Court will hear an application by the eThekwini Municipality to have Jagadasan charged with contempt of court for ignoring two earlier court orders compelling him to stop work on the shopping centre.

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