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Wednesday Nov 27, 2013

Durban bids to have Tongaat mall demolished

The eThekwini Municipality is going after Rectangle Property Investments, the company developing the Tongaat mall which collapsed, killing two, last week, and intends bringing court action to have the property demolished.

The city also wants to bring an application to have the company held in contempt of court.

If the company is found guilty of contempt of court, Durban businessman Jay Singh's son, Ravi Jagadasan, as the sole member of the company, could be jailed.

The municipality's mayoral spokesman, Sthembiso Mshengu, said yesterday that the city was considering the demolition application but was waiting for an engineer's report on the stability of the building.

'The engineers were sent to the scene and, based on their report, a decision will be made.'

He added that the contemptof-court application was being considered because the company had ignored a court order interdicting them from continuing with the construction. 'No one is allowed to flout the law and this company should face the music for blatantly disregarding the order of the court.'

The municipality had gone to court to stop construction because the company, which had no approved buildings plans for the mall, had ignored a stop-work notice and summonses. An interdict was granted by the Durban High Court, but it was ignored by the company.

Ian Chadwick, a consultant at Shepstone and Wylie, said yesterday that the municipality could ask for demolition as there was a likelihood that the rest of the building was unsafe.

He added that courts were 'slow' to demolish buildings, even when there was blatant contravention of by-laws, but that there had been a recent Supreme Court of Appeal decision in which the court had granted the Ndlambe municipality a demolition order.

In that case, Rhodes tax professor Matthew Lester was ordered to demolish his R8 million mansion in Kenton-on-Sea because he had built it without approved plans.

Chadwick added that in a contempt-of-court application the municipality would have to prove that the interdict had been served on the company, or that they were in court when it was granted. He said it was unlikely that Jagadasan would be sent to prison.

'Usually a committal order (to send someone to prison) is granted but stayed until the person does what was required of him. What should happen is that the building should be demolished and the owner be ordered to submit plans for approval. If approved, then there should be proper scrutiny of the construction to ensure that the building is in line with national building regulations.'

The Labour Department is yet to hold an inquiry into what led to the collapse.

The Mercury 


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