Thongathi (Tongaat) Mall Developer Jay Singh Blames Engineer for Collapse - Department of Labour inquiry told

BY SUPPLIED - MARCH 4, 2015

Jay Singh, the owner of Gralio Precast the company behind the doomed Thongathi (Tongaat) Mall, fingered the project's engineer, Dr Andre Ballack for negligence that led to the death and injury of workers. 

Cross-examined by Ian Topping, a legal representative of eThekwini Municipality, Singh said the site of the construction was always safe and "never knew that the Mall will collapse". 

Singh admitted before the Department of Labour Inquiry that he proceeded with the construction of the project without obtaining approvals. He said he started earthworks working on the basis of pre-approved plans obtained from a previous developer who was supposed to construct the Mall. 

Topping argued that Singh had defied the Municipality and law by starting work, while his earthworks application was being adjudicated. Singh admitted that he was aware that he had to get authority from eThekwini before he starts construction to the project. He said he started earthworks on the advice of his architecture, while he knew the plans were invalid. 

Asked by Topping if he was pressed for time to start work? Singh responded that he was not! Further probed by Topping if he was aware that he had broken National Building legislation, Singh responded by saying he had no further answers. 

After promising the commission yesterday to produce a number of documents on the project relating to health and safety, Risk Assessment Certificate, and building plans - Singh failed to do so today. 

Commission Presiding Officer, Phumudzo Maphaha, told  Singh that liability to produce and prepare such documents lie with the employer (contractor). 

The Thongathi Mall Structural Collapse Commission of Inquiry was appointed following the collapse of the Mall in 2013 that led to the death of two workers and injury to 29. The Commission started gathering evidence on February 2014. 

The Section 32 hearing, was instituted by the Department of Labour in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act - to gather evidence against parties whose negligence resulted in occupational injuries and death of workers.

The Inquiry continues tomorrow (5 March) with further cross-examination of Singh. The Thongathi Commission of Inquiry is held at the North Coast Town’s Municipality offices. The Inquiry starts daily at 9am. This week's session is expected to end on Friday.