South African Construction companies are seeping rot. Here the latest disaster:
Police, officials probe mall collapse
Sniffer dogs are being used to find survivors of the Tongaat mall collapse in KwaZulu-Natal. Watch.WATCH
Durban – A culpable homicide case will be opened after the collapse of a mall construction site in Tongaat, north of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal police said on Wednesday.
“We must now determine, through the investigation, whether there was negligence and who was responsible,” Lieutenant Mandy Govender said.
A woman was killed when a portion of the construction site collapsed on Tuesday afternoon.
The labour department had taken over the scene and was in charge of the entire operation. Police would remain on the scene, Govender said.
Three people remained unaccounted for, and it was possible that more people were trapped in the debris, she said earlier on Wednesday.
Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha said that in addition to the single confirmed death, 29 people were hospitalised with various injuries.
He said the search and rescue operation had been called off so the labour department could move some of the rubble with heavy machinery.
Labour department spokesperson Page Boikanyo said a delegation led by acting director general Sam Morotoba would visit the scene on Wednesday.
The department’s deputy director general of inspection and enforcement services, Thobile Lamati, and Compensation Fund commissioner Shadrack Mkhonto would also visit the site.
Earlier, eThekwini deputy mayor Nomvuzo Shabalala said construction at the mall should not have been taking place.
“We took them [the contractors] to court a month ago. We thought they had stopped,” she said.
The municipality had approached the court because the contractors had not followed processes. The municipality said it would hold a media conference about the collapse.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said it was concerned about accidents in the construction industry. The union demanded a transparent investigation and that proper corrective action be taken, spokesperson PB Ngcobo said.
“The employer must answer to all allegations that they proceeded to build without approved plans. They must also answer as to why they defied the court order, as alleged by the eThekwini municipality.”
The investigation needed to uncover how prevalent such actions were within the construction industry.
“Construction workers are of the belief that there is collaboration between the inspectors and the employers to hide the occurrence of accidents in the industry and what happened in oThongathi is just a tip of the iceberg.”
NUM was worried that government authorities, such as the labour department’s inspectorate, were not doing enough to prevent such accidents.
ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Senzo Mkhize said construction companies flouting building regulations should be blacklisted.
“The ANC is appalled that this tragedy happened barely a month after the eThekwini municipality had ordered the construction to stop,” he said.
“Had the company complied, surely this disaster could have been averted.”
He extended the party’s condolences to the family of the woman who was killed and wished the injured a speedy recovery.
Riding city tender train in face of ire
Jay Singh (left) and Diliza Mji (middle) and Derek Naidoo, eThekwini municipality deputy city manager
Opposition parties have been scathing in their attack on eThekwini officials for issuing new contracts to a construction company linked to controversial businessman Jay Singh.
They’re appalled that Gralio Precast, which did shoddy work on previous low-cost and middle-income housing projects, continues to land lucrative contracts.
Gralio recently won a R22 million tender to lay access roads and provide bulk water for the first phase of the Cornubia Project, the city’s latest housing development.
Gralio’s directors are listed as Shireen Annamalay and Ravi Jagadasan, Singh’s wife and son.
The company also clinched a R72m tender to provide engineering services and top structures for 486 units at Cornubia. This was set out in a status report by the Department of Human Settlements.
Earlier this year, a Singh-linked construction company was criticised in the Manase Report for allegedly irregular spending on the Hammonds Farm and Burbreeze projects.
Singh has been convicted of bribing a city official to turn a blind eye to sub-standard construction work.
He made headlines when his Remant Alton, which controlled the city’s bus service, was run into the ground in 2009.
The IFP claims Singh continues to receive lucrative contracts because he is an ANC benefactor. The DA and the Minority Front concur with that sentiment.
“We believe Singh’s affiliation with the ruling party is the main reason he’s landing jobs,” said IFP councillor Prem Iyer, who sits on eThekwini’s public accounts committee.
MF executive committee member Patrick Pillay said, “It is questionable when contracts continue to be given to companies that have built structurally unsound houses and placed an extra cost burden on ratepayers. The MF is aware that city manager Sibusiso Sithole is investigating the contracts, but it is taking too long to achieve an outcome.
“Many contractors in the city with a proven track record of housing delivery are not being considered, while the same defaulting contractor is given work.”
The DA’s Dean Macpherson said, “It’s the best example of how the ANC awards its cronies for their patronage. His (Singh’s) bus company ran into the ground; yet he was awarded other contracts after that. The ANC is not willing to learn, no matter who holds the mayoral and city manager positions.
“Anyone implicated in the Manase Report should get no business from the city until the issues are cleared,” he said.
Corporate Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomsa Dube commissioned the Manase Report.
Dube’s spokesman, Lennox Mabaso, said, “We’re in the dark as to how contracts are awarded – that relates to the day-to-day business of the municipality.
“We issued a report (Manase) that was an eye-opener and it will ensure the mistakes that almost led to the collapse of the municipality will not be repeated.
“Our report recommendations need to be implemented. If work was awarded to those implicated after the report was released, we will conduct new investigations. But for now there are no documents in front of us.”
In an interview with the Sunday Tribune last week, Sithole said he wanted to address the issue of tenders being awarded to “some whites, some Indians and a few blacks”.
Approached for comment on Singh’s further contracts, he said: “The contracts were not awarded under my watch. If they’re already signed, there are legal implications.
“I’m not familiar with the details of the contracts. Besides, I’m currently not allowed to talk to the media,” said Sithole, suggesting the Sunday Tribune seek comment from municipal spokesman Thabo Mofokeng.
“The municipality is aware of the information about the allegedly shoddy work. But this only came to light after the company had been awarded a contract for the first phase of Cornubia. The municipality is looking into this matter and considering the legal implications,” said Mofokeng.
Since 2010, Gralio has been awarded a contract worth more than R27m for the first phase of the Emtshebheni housing project in Inanda.
Late last year, the company was awarded the contract to build nearly 500 houses in the first phase of the Cornubia development.
Singh-owned Woodglaze is reported to have landed the proposed multimillion-rand Westville Triangle middle-income housing project.
In 2011, residents of the Treehaven complex in Phoenix reported Woodglaze to the National Home Builders’ Registration Council for shoddy workmanship.
Woodglaze, previously known as Palm Civils, was mentioned in the Manase Report for the cost of Hammonds Farm rising from R68m to R351m as 22 of the units in this Verulam development had to be demolished.
Palm Civils won the Burbreeze development contract in Tongaat in 2003. Poor workmanship was also reported on this project and costs for the venture leapt from R18m to R57m.
“The Fairbreeze and Hammonds Farm projects should have gone out to tender again when variances were detected,” said Iyer.
“If massive variance is detected on a project that will push up the value of a contract, it should be put out to tender again. We believe this is a platform to milk the municipality.”
Singh was not available for comment, but Pravesh Inderjeeth, a spokesman for some projects run by Singh, said: “Every month the media ask us about the same issues. Our attorneys are handling all correspondence.” He refused to name the lawyers. – Sunday Tribune