Tongaat Mall collapse report to be given to NPA

Cape Town - The findings of the 2013 Tongaat Mall collapse will be handed to the NPA for a decision on whether to prosecute anyone, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said on Tuesday. 

An investigation found contraventions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and construction regulations.

The report would be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions in about a month, for a decision on whether to prosecute.

Oliphant said the department would not take action against those implicated unless the National Prosecuting Authority decided to prosecute.

Two people were killed and 29 people injured when a section of the mall collapsed during construction on November 19 2013.

The neck of a column exploded, causing the concrete slab it was supporting to collapse and crush the two workers.

The background to the construction was that:

- Rectangle Property Investment bought the stand on 263 Gopallala street in Tongaat in 2012 from Strathmore Property Investment Trust;

- Included in the purchase were plans not approved since its first submission on January 31 2007 by Strathmore;

- In February 2013 an application to start earthworks was made. It was rejected on March 20 2013;

- Because the earthworks application was rejected, the building plans could not be approved;

- Excavation work was already at an advanced stage on March 8 2013 even though plans had not been approved;

- Gralio Precast appointed Axion Consulting Engineers Services as the design engineer for the project when it was under Strathmore;

- Rectangle Property Investment then engaged the services of Gralio Precast as an agent and principal contractor to perform all construction work.

The department found:

- The poor construction of beam 7 triggered the collapse; 

- Piles for some of the columns had been overloaded and under-designed;

- A lack of supervision of construction work;

- Failure to appoint a competent supervisor for the construction work;

- Lack of knowledge to execute the complex, interdependent structure;

- Defective materials such as cement imported from Pakistan that did not meet SA Bureau of Standards requirements;

- Failure to prepare and work from drawings; and

- Poor construction methods.

Oliphant said she was not going to name anyone and would take the innocent until proven guilty stance.

Investigators found contraventions of:

- Section 4 of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act because building started before approval by a local authority; and

- Sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act because manufacturers did not discharge their duties and the employer did not inform employees about safety standards;

Oliphant said amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and construction regulations would make it harder for construction companies to get away with breaking the law.

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