Mall slab collapse still poses a hazard

The Thongathi (Tongaat) Mall construction site is facing a secondary slab collapse, placing investigators at risk.

The remaining supporting pillars having taken strain since part of the slab collapsed in November. A pillars have been “gradually caving in” since the Commission paid a visit a month ago.

The commission had returned to the site to drill the beams and expose fixed steel reinforcement, in order to assess whether it conformed with the design.

Slab collapse site under guard

The structural collapse site has been under 24-hour guard, and the Thongathi Commission of Inquiry presiding officer Phumudzo Maphaha had cautioned that no one was allowed on site without authorisation.

At the site to oversee the drilling was Gralio chief executive, Jay Singh, the owner of the company that built the mall; foreman Ronnie Pillay, Department of Labour inspectors, and an engineer.

The Thongathi Mall, built at a cost of R200-m was supposed to be opened in April 2014. Some 65 workers were working on the construction site on the fateful day.

Inquiry ongoing

The Inquiry heard that the construction of the mall proceeded without approval of the plans by the Ethekwini municipality.

Maphaha told the commission of inquiry this that the fate of the doomed mall will be known in month’s time.

Ravi Jagadasan, sole director of Rectangle Properties, a property development company, and director of Gralio Precast the company that was responsible for the construction of the Thongathi (Tongaat) Mall, admitted before the Commission of Inquiry that the companies did not have approval to build the mall.

Jagadasan said that acting on the advice of his legal representative, he had instructed Gralio Precast, a company owned by Jay Singh to stop the project after receiving a Court order last November from Ethekwini Municipality.

He told the Commission that he was told by his team of architects that the project could still “proceed on pre-approved plans”. Jagadasan said he was shocked when he saw in the news that the mall slab had collapsed.

Asked if he was aware that the Construction Regulations requires that a competent person with the relevant knowledge, training, experience, and qualifications needed to undertake a project of such magnitude, Jagadasan said ‘it depends what the regulations were’ and he was not aware of them.

He said he had trusted Jay Singh of Gralio, the construction company who boasted 30 years of experience, who had undertaken similar projects and housing in KwaZulu-Natal province.

Despite having earlier told the Commission that he had asked for the project to be halted, he said he was aware of changes in the design to enable trucks to maneuver.

The Ethekwini municipality had served the owners with court papers to halt the project on 13 November.

Ronnie Pillay, a foreman during the construction, had said that he was not aware that it was part of his duty to ensure that he had to regularly obtain concrete tests results and verify the strength and quality.

He said he was performing his duties taking a lead from the drawings prepared by engineers led by Andre Ballack. He was not aware of any revisions done on the drawings, as it was not his responsibilities.

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