Mall contractors never got approval

Image from the scene of the Tongaat shopping mall collapse in KwaZulu Natal. Picture: CNS

The owners and contractors working on the Tongaat mall which collapsed on Tuesday did not seek approval of their building plans, eThekwini mayor James Nxumalo said on Wednesday.

“No application has ever been made to the city by the current owners or anyone acting on their behalf for the approval of building plans for the construction of the property in question,” he said in Durban.

He was briefing reporters on the accident in which a section of the mall construction site collapsed. A woman was killed and 29 people were injured.

Nxumalo said the only applications received for the site were for earthworks and not for buildings. The applications were refused, the most recent one in May this year.

The municipality became aware that there was construction going on at the site and inspectors were sent there before the matter ultimately went to court.

The High Court in Durban granted a court order on November 14 directing the property owners, Rectangular Property Investments, to suspend all building operations.

eThekwini municipal manager Sibusiso Sithole denied that the municipality had dragged its feet in attempts to halt construction at the site.

An artists impression of the mall. Source: Richter van Niekerk Properties

An artists impression of the mall. Source: Richter van Niekerk Properties

Asked why police were not called to shut down the site, Nxumalo said the site could not be policed 24 hours a day.

The company did not receive any form of preferential treatment.

Sithole praised the work of emergency personnel in dealing with the aftermath of the collapse.

The city would continue with legal processes to obtain a contempt of court order to shut down the site. It would pursue those responsible and charge them where they had contravened the law.

Nxumalo said the search and rescue efforts had been temporarily suspended as the labour department took control of operations at the site.

The municipality appointed a registered engineer to determine why the structure had collapsed.

The labour department’s KwaZulu-Natal assistant director for occupational safety Sandile Khubeka said the department arrived at the scene on Tuesday.

They, together with the city engineers, were examining the structure and talking to witnesses in the ongoing investigation.

Khubeka said he could not provide more information until the investigation had been completed.

– Sapa

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