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Monday Apr 07, 2014

No permissions, no plans obtained before mall collapse

Developers of the Tongaat Mall outside Durban, which partially caved in last year, failed to obtain permission to demolish the existing building before construction began, a commission of inquiry heard on Friday.

This was in addition to the failure to have the earthworks and building plans approved by the eThekwini metro municipality.

Cyril Dube, a building inspector with the municipality, told the commission he had noticed the demolition work as he travelled past the property every day on his way to work and decided to investigate.

When he found that no permission had been obtained for the demolition, and following an inspection in December 2012, he sent Strathmore Property Investments a letter advising them they had not obtained permission.

The municipality was not aware the property had been sold to Rectangle Property Investments, the developers of the mall. 'No letter was addressed to Rectangle Property because I did not know of them,' said Dube.

He did another inspection of the site and was told by architect Reggie Pillay that plans were being submitted. When he discovered that plans had not been issued he went to the site in Tongaat in April 2013 to serve a 'stop works notice'.

He said that as he was handing the notice to Pillay, Durban businessman Jay Singh arrived in a white Porsche.

Singh's son Ravi Jagadasan is the sole member of Rectangle Property Investments CC.

However, despite all the notices advising that development could not take place, building and earthworks continued apace.

'I went to my principal and asked him if I must continue dishing out notices because these people weren't stopping.'

He said he was told to stop issuing notices but to keep an eye on what was happening at the construction site.

By this time, in July 2013, summonses had been issued and the municipality was seeking an interdict to prevent construction from going ahead.

Five days before the mall collapsed on November 19, the municipality obtained a court order to stop all construction.

On Thursday, the commission heard that earthworks plans were rejected four times by the municipality's development, applications and approvals department. No plans for the building were ever submitted to the municipality.

The commission heard earlier in the week that 12 metal rods in a support beam were missing. An inspection of the site revealed that there were only seven Y32 rods when there should have been 19 in the beam.

A section of the mall, which was under construction, collapsed, killing two people and injuring 29.

The commission is headed by the Labour Department's occupational health and safety manager, Phumudzo Maphaha.



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