Call to fast-track Tongaat mall investigation

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IOL TONGAATTT11 20-11-2013~1


A police sniffer dog checks the rubble from the collapsed Tongaat mall for survivors and victims. File picture: Sandile Makhoba

Durban - The police’s criminal investigation and the eThekwini Municipality’s decision to take further legal steps against the company allegedly responsible for the Tongaat mall tragedy will depend on the Department of Labour’s investigation into the incident – which could take a year.

The investigation into the accident – in which two people died and 29 were injured when the partially completed mall collapsed last month – begins next month.

In a rare moment of unity, the ANC and the DA expressed concern about the time frame and called for the investigation to be accelerated.

“We appreciate the complexity of the investigation, but we urge (the department) to apply more resources to it and speed it up. It is a critical investigation and a year is too long,” said ANC spokesman Senzo Mkhize.

He said people were waiting for the report and the matter needed to be resolved as it had given the province a “bad name”.

The DA’s provincial leader, Sizwe Mchunu, said there was a trend in KwaZulu-Natal for large-scale investigations or inquiries to take “for ever”.

“Clearly this is unacceptable… there are deaths involved here. An issue this prominent needs to be laid to bed quickly. Justice delayed is justice denied,” said Mchunu.

Police spokesman Thulani Zwane said although a docket had been opened on two counts of culpable homicide, the report was needed before the police could continue as it was part of the evidence.

The eThekwini Municipality, which issued several notices instructing the mall’s developer, Rectangle Property Investments, to halt construction in the months leading up to the incident, had been taking steps to file a contempt of court order against the company, but these too were being delayed pending the report.

Durban mayor James Nxumalo told an executive committee meeting on Tuesday that once the report was released, the city would decide its next step.

Mkhize said that the municipality should blacklist Rectangle and businessman Jay Singh, whose son, Ravi Jagadasan, is the sole director of Rectangle. This was to ensure the city did no more “business” with the controversial businessman and his family.

Department of Labour spokesman Nhlanhla Khumalo said it would like the inquiry to be completed quickly, but a possible lack of co-operation by affected parties was taken into account in estimating a time frame.

“The collation of information and documents from stakeholders is to be submitted by December 31. The formal inquiry will then begin (provisionally) in the third week of January,” said Khumalo.

Additional reporting by Sihle Manda

The Mercury

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