2 minute read
4 Mar 2015
5:34 pm

Questions around Tongaat mall design


Workers building the Tongaat mall may have been using the design engineer's old drawings, the commission of inquiry investigating the structure's collapse heard on Wednesday.

FILE PICTURE: Emergency services personnel attend to the Tongaat Mall collapse, 19 November 2013, where the roof of the mall collapsed trapping construction workers underneath its rubble. Picture: Themba Khumalo

This emerged during a dispute between Richard Hoal, for engineer Andre Ballack, and Jay Singh, the chief executive of Gralio Precast (Pty) Ltd, the company that built the mall.

The commission is investigating the mall’s collapse on November 19, 2013, in which two workers were killed and 29 injured. Construction started in May that year.

Hoal and Singh, who was being questioned, disagreed over a pillar and two beams. Singh maintained the support beams were not place.

As the two men could not agree over the drawing, labour department occupational health and safety manager Phumudzo Maphaha, who is chairing the commission, intervened.

He said he remembered another drawing that did not have the support beams, identified as beams one and three. Ballack then confirmed his first drawing did not have those support beams as there was a pillar.

This pillar was removed after one of the mall’s prospective tenants wanted to have space for a driveway. Ballack said this required putting in the support beams.

“There is a possibility that Mr Singh has been using an outdated drawing,” Maphaha said.

He ordered that Singh bring the drawings Gralio used in the mall’s construction to the commission.

Earlier on Wednesday, Singh told the commission the building site was always safe.

Singh blamed the collapse squarely on Ballack.

“It was the engineer,” he said, when asked by advocate Ian Topping, for the eThekwini Metro municipality, who he thought was responsible.

Topping asked him what he personally did to ensure the building site was safe.

“It was always safe,” Singh replied.

“It fell down and killed two people. How can you say it was safe?” Topping retorted.

“Because of your inaction, it led to a situation where the workers were not working in safe conditions,” said Topping.

Singh admitted that he continued with construction, despite having no written authority from the municipality for the building and the earthworks.

Reading from the minutes of a site meeting which Singh attended in his capacity as chief executive of Gralio, Topping revealed it was discussed that the building plans had still not been submitted.

Singh argued they were working from plans for which the previous developer had obtained the necessary municipal approval.

Singh said he merely needed to change the name on the plans, which had already expired, and resubmit them.

“You knew very well that the plans in question are no longer valid and you chose to continue,” said Maphaha.

READ MORE: Tongaat mall always safe: Singh