Tongaat mall: scores to attend

2014-02-11 00:00

OVER 30 media outlets will descend on Tongaat today when the commission of inquiry into the collapsed Tongaat mall — linked to the Jay Singh family — begins.

The commission, the first of its kind to receive such wide media attention, will be run by three experts in the occupational health and safety field with over 30 years’ experience. They are expected to examine the evidence and hear testimony over the next four days.

The mall collapsed on November 19 last year and within hours the disaster was broadcast globally. Initial reports put the death toll at over 25, but within 12 hours it is verified that only two people had died and 29 were injured.

The mall is linked to Durban’s controversial businessman Jay Singh, who ran Durban Transport under the name Remant Alton and who has interests in mining, property and construction.

His son, Ravi Jagadasan, is listed as the only director of Rectangle Property Investments, which is the development company. His wife Shireen Annamalay is listed as a director of Gralio Precast, the construction firm building the mall.

Both Jagadasan and Annamalay are expected to be present at the commission. Others expected to attend are the eThekwini council, independent structural engineers who will represent the developer, another for the building insurer, and a third for the Engineering Council of South Africa. Workers who witnessed the incident will also be in attendance to give testimony.

The Department of Labour is sending its top manager, Phumudzo Maphaha, with 17 years experience in occupational health and safety at the department, to preside over the commission.

He will be supported by the Labour Department’s KZN deputy director in occupational health, Sandile Khubeka, and Lennie Samuel, who is an assistant director in the same department.

Labour spokesperson Nhlanhla Khumalo said the process will be open only to accredited people.

“Various stakeholders and the media who have applied for accreditation will be allowed in, but there is no open access. In total there will be about 65 people in the commission room. I can’t recall any other such construction disaster that has created this much attention,” he said.

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