Department of Labour: Meyersdal Structural Collapse Incident Inquiry to begin in October

AUGUST 28, 2014

The Department of Labour’s Meyersdal Structural Collapse Incident Inquiry will begin with the cross-examination of witnesses on October 29, Commission of Inquiry Presiding Officer Phumudzo Maphaha announced in Pretoria today.

Maphaha said the Inquiry will devote its evidence gathering session mainly on investigating the columns that supported the area that collapsed.

The house that collapsed in Meyersdal Eco Estate near Alberton, led to the deaths of seven workers, hospitalisation of nine and survival of eight workers.

Maphaha said he does not want the Commission to waste time by interrogating issues that did not result into the collapse of the Meyersdal Eco Estate near Alberton. Maphaha was speaking in Pretoria today during a stakeholder briefing session held at the Department of Labour’s Labour Centre.

The interested parties that attended the Department of Labour briefing session included: the owner; insurer; designer; the Engineering Council of South Africa; the National Home Builders Registration Council; and the National Regulator for Compulsory Specification.

The briefing session was held ahead of the start of a Department of Labour instituted Commission of Inquiry in terms of section 32 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The briefing session was initially preceded by an objection from the legal representative of the client (owner of the house) who objected to the presence of the media in the Inquiry.

Attorney representing the client, Eddie Classen objected to the presence of the media at the Inquiry, saying the Presiding Officer (Maphaha) had failed to consult “parties with interest” for their inputs to media’s presence.  

Maphaha referred Classen to the Department of Labour’s Chief Inspector, Thobile Lamati – who he said had appointed him to head the Commission - to lodge his objections. Maphaha accused Classen of being a stumbling block to the work of the Commission.

Classen retorted that it was necessary to have a difference of opinions.

“Public interest to me matters most in how we conduct this Inquiry,” Maphaha cautioned that there were workers who died and others injured and these people had families who wanted to know what happened on the ill-fated day.

The Section 32 hearing was appointed by the Department of Labour to investigate any instance of negligence that resulted in occupational injuries and death of workers. The hearing seeks to prevent the incident from happening again; help review the Act and regulations; help in the review safety management systems; and also establish if there are contraventions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

“Through this hearing, we want to prevent this disaster from happening again. We are not here in a witch-hunt and finger pointing exercise,” Maphaha said. 

Photo caption: TO BE INVESTIGATED IN OCTOBER... The house that collapsed in Meyersdal Eco Estate near Alberton.