Collapsed mall had no insurance

2015-03-03 00:00

SELF-confessed Durban tenderprenuer Jay Singh had no insurance cover for the ­collapsed Tongaat Mall.

Singh, who took the stand for the first time at the Tongaat Mall Commission of Inquiry, admitted that he financed the more than R200 million development out of his own pocket after saving for “30 years”.

“The only risk we thought we would ­incur was theft so we increased the ­security,” said Singh.

Singh was the owner, developer and ­contractor of the mall which collapsed in November 2013, killing two people and ­injuring 29.

And while it has been widely reported that he had no planning permission to ­construct the mall, Singh maintained that the plans had been cleared with approval likely to have come through just days after the collapse.

“The plans went to all the departments. The only [one] outstanding for approval was town-planning. When we bought the property it came with the plans. They had already been accepted except when we wanted to build they had lapsed.”

Singh, to strengthen his credibility, ­admitted to successfully building 70 schools, 28 000 houses and four malls and being the winner of several government housing awards. He said 75% of all his work had been “government contracts”.

He said the purchase of the property came with the condition that he uses ­engineer Andre Ballack.

“There was only one thing different [in the construction of this mall to my other projects] and that was that we had a new engineer.”

Ballack has maintained that throughout the six-month period during the mall’s construction he had, despite requesting, been denied the strength test results for the concrete used as well as not being handed the site book. The book is alleged to have disappeared under the rubble of the collapsed mall.

The commission had previously heard that the concrete should have been no weaker than 30 MPa (a unit used to ­measure pressure) but the concrete actually hovered between nine and 18 MPa.

A household brick should be 14 MPa.

“I don’t know what happened at Tongaat. I thought the engineer was ­receiving the test results [during ­construction]. Ballack did not raise at any point that he was not receiving the results at any of our monthly meetings.”

Singh blamed Ballack for the lack of steel support bars in a key concrete slab linked closely to the collapse. He also said that a “design problem” in Ballack’s drawings had been picked up and corrected.

Singh said he trusted Ballack’s ­judgment.

“The place where the mall collapsed was where I would always park my vehicle. I would even bring my young son with me. We once had a braai up on the deck. When the mall collapsed Ballack went straight to this area. He didn’t look anywhere else. Maybe he knew in his mind that’s where the problem was.”

Cross examination will begin today.

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