Tongaat mall collapse inquiry report to prosecutors

The Tongaat Mall collapse inquiry reported several contraventions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS Act), and Construction Regulations Amendment, in May 2016.

Among the findings are;

  • Poor construction of beam 7 had triggered the collapse
  • Piles for some of the columns were under-designed, and over-loaded
  • Lack of supervision of construction work
  • Failure to appoint a competent supervisor for construction work
  • Lack of knowledge to execute an interdependent structure
  • Defective materials, including cement imported from Pakistan, not meeting SANS standards
  • Failure to prepare drawings, and failure to work from drawings
  • Poor construction methods
  • Contravention of section 4 of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act (construction started before approval by the local authority)
  • Manufacturers did not discharge all their duties in terms of the OHS Act
  • The employer did not inform employees about safety standards.

Labour minister Mildred Oliphant said the DOL had “strengthened relations with the NPA to make sure that there is a successful prosecution on occupational health and safety cases that are referred,” reported Allafrica.com.

The current review of the OHS Act would “strengthen measures to enforce legislation,” including vicarious liability of all parties involved.”

The Director of Public Prosecutions of the NPA may decide on any prosecutions based on the findings, in June 2016.

Three years ago, two people were killed and 29 people injured when a column neck exploded, and a section of the mall collapsed during construction on November 19. Twenty-nine workers sustained serious injuries including to the head, back, and lower bodies.

Rectangle Property Investment had bought the stand and building plans submitted some years before. Their application for earthwork was rejected.

However the owners went ahead with excavation work. Gralio Precast was the agent and principal contractor.

Construction deaths now 1.5 per week

About 40% of the construction industry, involving 5000 sites, did not comply with some of the relevant laws (see earlier reports about compliance rates reported by the DOL in previous years).

Fatal construction incidents in South Africa now take a toll of about 1.5 deaths per week.

* See earlier reports on testimony of various role-players at the Tongaat /Thongahi Mall collapse inquiry, on Sheqafrica.com

* See an earlier report on interested parties gaining access to an incident investigation report, via a court order, on Sheqafrica.com.

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4 thoughts on “Tongaat mall collapse inquiry report to prosecutors

  1. Well well, this comes as no surprise! The DOL took four years….

    ==== Editor notes; I deleted the rest of this comment (three trade names, two profanities, an irrelevant statement, an unfair statement, and a speculative statement).
    Note that the inquiry report handed to the NPA could be seen as a recommendation to prosecute.
    Whether the investigation and inquiry was adequate, remains to be seen.
    It should be an open document, in terms of a recent court ruling (see an earlier report on Sheqafrica.com regarding family members of deceased having gained insight into DOL records).
    Whether we will get insight into the inquiry report after the prosecutor does in June, remains to be seen.
    The DOL does not prosecute, or trial, or impose fines or sentences.
    It could only stop work, and re-inspect, and inquire, which it had done.

    1. Dear Peter,

      Your allegations are very serious. I would like to follow up with your facts on this!

    2. When the Construction Regs were promulgated in August 2003, it was hailed by some in a so called “professional safety body” in South Africa as the best thing since sliced bread. Off course, most of us in the safety field knew it will make no difference, if people were not complying with laws pre August 2003, will they comply with the new Construction Regulations (except for a few sections, the Constr Regs was hashed out of existing legislation). I agree with Peter in respect of the prosecution aspect. The inquiry should recommend prosecutions for contraventions and should have provided the necessary evidence to substantiate their recommendation. This makes the task of the NPA a lot easier. We all know the extent of corruption in our beloved South Africa, so it’s not worth commenting on that.

  2. Perhaps one should try to understand the role of the DOL in the legal process. The Inquiry report should, if there are any evidence supporting it, contain a recommendation that the State (NPA) prosecute the persons mentioned therein. The NPA then makes a decision based on the evidence in the report, and if there are reasonable doubt that the prosecution will fail; due to insufficient evidence, then no prosecution will be instated.
    On News24, the minister was cited as saying “the department would not take action against those implicated unless the National Prosecuting Authority decided to prosecute”. I do not know if she was misquoted or lacks understanding of the DOL’s role. If the NPA decides not to prosecute, an application can be made to the Director General of the DOJ for a certificate to institute a private prosecution in terms of Section 7(1) of the Criminal Procedures Act, 1977. However, I don’t think the DOL meets the requirements for a private prosecution.
    I think she meant that the “innocent until proven guilty” principle will be honoured and no other action, such as a contravention notice, prohibition notice, etc would be served in lieu of the pending actions.

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