Fall of the Singh empire

2013-11-29 00:00

THE dominoes are falling on Jay Singh’s dodgy property empire, with a new investigation, a council challenge, an application for demolition, and a court action launched yesterday alone.

And The Witness has established that — in addition to two SAPS culpable homicide cases being investigated in the collapse of the Tongaat mall — Singh or his wife could face “criminal prosecution” through a regulator’s probe into his housing projects.

As the Department of Labour today prepares to formally outline its own investigation into the fatal collapse of Singh’s mall last week, The Witness has established that:

•The National Homebuilders Registration Council (NHBRC) has launched an investigation into all of Singh’s housing projects, both completed and in progress;

•Yesterday, court papers were filed at Durban’s high court to stop Singh’s company, Woodglaze — nominally headed by his wife, Shireen Annamalay — from completing the development of 96 housing units in Newlands, Durban, because it had never been enrolled with the national building regulator, and was “illegal”. Brought by the NHBRC, the application to interdict further construction was brought partly because of concerns that the same “sub-standard” building that brought down the Tongaat mall might represent a hazard to residents. An inspection team found that, as with the mall, a series of official notices to stop work were simply ignored by Singh’s company and “construction continues unabated”.

• Yesterday, the eThekwini finance and procurement committee revealed the award of yet another housing tender associated with Singh’s network, triggering an immediate challenge from outraged councillors. The committee heard that Afriscan Construction — whose directors include Singh’s lawyer, Rajan Naidoo and Sibusiso Ncube, husband of Co-operative Governance MEC Nomusa Dube — was awarded a R71 million tender. This was for civil engineering at the Cornubia development near Umhlanga last month.

• eThekwini’s head of legal services Nokhana Moerane yesterday told The Witness that the city had prepared and completed a court application to order the demolition of the Tongaat mall, which she said would be filed today.

• Yesterday, official alarm at alleged sub-standard construction and illegal building by Singh’s companies had spread to Scottburgh, where Gralio has been awarded R51 million to build 500 low-cost houses. Umdoni Municipality manager Xolani Luthuli told The Witness they were “watching with concern” reports regarding Gralio Precast. “If any action, either from the NHBRC or criminal justice system is taken against Gralio, then we will seek legal opinion,” he said.

The DA eThekwini caucus leader Zwakele Mncwango, referring to Singh’s Gralio Precast company, said: “Are we going to be responsible when people are killed in the houses built by this company? Awarding tenders to this company was catastrophic!”

However, finance committee chairperson Fawzia Peer said: “We are going to blacklist the company, [as] the mayor has already indicated. We do not want any shoddy work. These houses are for our people.”

Mncwango also challenged the R71 million Afriscan award, but an official told the committee the tender had been properly awarded.

Naidoo — a director of Africsan — was also director of Singh’s Remant Alton, which controlled Durban bus transport, and remains a co-director with Singh’s son Ravi Jagadasan, in Walsh Trail Investments. Singh has already been awarded R277 million on Cornubia projects, and R686 million in tenders from eThekwini overall.

The Newlands West development — a 16-block project at the corner of Jacks­castle and Hilldale Drive west of Durban — was planned for completion by Woodglaze on December 20, according to the court papers.

In her affidavit in the NHBRC court application, Julia Motapola, head of legal services for the regulator, stated their inspector, Louis Moolman, visited the site and found that Singh’s foreman, Suren Singh, was “unaware” that his own project had never been legally registered.

“Of particular concern to [the NHRC] is that Shireen Annamalay is the wife of Jay Singh, the controversial businessman, developer of the Tongaat mall where a large section of slab recently collapsed causing injury and damage,” Motapola stated. “I am concerned that Woodglaze is another vehicle utilised by Singh for developments, and am concerned that the quality of work … might be sub-standard.”

Singh did not respond to direct questions.

However, Singh’s family spokesperson, Pastor Mervin Reddy, said: “Jay has been active in the office every day since the [mall collapse] incident. He is waiting for the outcomes of the investigation. But the entire family will be exonerated and the media will eat its words.”

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