1 minute read
24 Jul 2014
3:01 pm

Tongaat Mall owner surprised at collapse

The owner of the ill-fated Tongaat Mall was surprised to find his mall in the news when it collapsed, as he believed construction had stopped, a commission of inquiry into the disaster heard on Thursday.

FILE PICTURE: Rescue workers at the construction site of the Tongaat Mall on November 19, 2013, in Durban, South Africa. Thus far, one person was killed when the unfinished mall collapsed while builders were on site on November 19, 2013. By 10pm that evening, 29 rescued workers had been transported to hospital with injuries. According to eThekwini mayor, Nomvusi Shabalala, workers should not have been on site, as the construction had been temporarily suspended. Picture: Gallo Images / The Times / Tebogo Letsie.

Ravi Jagadasan told the labour department’s inquiry that the instruction had been given to stop work at the site after the eThekwini metro municipality obtained a court order halting all building at the site.

“Didn’t it come as a surprise when the mall was in the news?” asked the department’s occupational health and safety manager Phumudzo Maphaha, who leads the commission.

“It was. They were supposed to have stopped work,” Jagadasan replied.

Jagadasan is the sole member of Rectangle Property Investments CC, of which his father, Durban businessman Jay Singh, is the chief executive.

The close corporation was the developer of the R220 million mall being constructed by Gralio Precast (Pty) Ltd, which is also run by Singh.

A large portion of the mall collapsed on November 19 last year killing two people and injuring 29.

Jagadasan was unable to answer several questions Maphaha put to him and said his father should be asked.

This prompted Maphaha to ask: “Are you evading my questions?”

“No, I am not,” Jagadasan replied.

“You can shift your responsibility, but we will have to test if the liability lies with you,” Maphaha warned.

Jagadasan said he believed that until August last year the eThekwini metro municipality had approved all plans.

He said he was not involved in the day-to-day running of Rectangle Property Investments and that his father took all decisions regarding the mall.

Earlier in the morning, Ronnie Pillay, a foreman at Gralio Precast (Pty) Ltd, admitted he was not aware that he had to ask for results of strength tests carried out on concrete poured at the site.

– Sapa