Tongaat Mall: ‘mind-boggling’ evidence to surface

2014-09-30 00:00

CONFIDENTIAL evidence expected to surface at the Tongaat Mall inquiry could badly damage developer Jay Singh’s case.

Expected to be formally entered into the record in October, the findings, described as “mind-boggling” by the inquiry commissioner Phumudzo Maphaha, are the result of tests — which cost in excess of half a million rand to undertake — on crucial support columns that Singh’s legal team believe may have been under-designed and played a crucial role in the collapse.

The mall, built without municipal approval, collapsed on November 19, killing two and injuring 29 people.

Singh was both the developer and contractor building the mall using his own construction firm Gralio Precast.

The test included the construction of a replica column similar to a disputed column in the collapsed section, built under the supervision of the Department of Labour.

Sources revealed that these results could halt any “smoke-screening” of evidence and should show that the tested column could support a load (weight) in excess of 50% of what was required.

“It is mind-boggling what has happened. We hope to get a full report soon,” said Maphaha.

In previous hearings it had emerged that the concrete used on the site was substandard and that there were only seven of the required 19 steel bars needed to reinforce a beam holding a collapsed concrete slab.

At a hearing held in Umhlanga yesterday, Andre Ballack presented his original 3D modelling of the mall.

“Our opinion is that the structure was properly braced [secured from movement and able to withstand pressure] and modelled correctly,” he said.

But consultant engineer Rob Young — who was the lead consultant in developing King Shaka International Airport, and now acting for Singh — badgered Ballack on several alleged anomalies in the model.

“It is a complex model, but anything can be done mathematically, but it must [withstand practical application],” said Young.

After today, the last two remaining people to take the stand will be Ballack and Singh.

Ballack is likely to be questioned on his responsibility on site, defend allegations that he seldom signed off documents timeously, as well as face a barrage of questions over the structural design.

Singh — who will be last up — is expected to face the toughest grilling and will be questioned on multiple facets of the disaster.

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