Conflicts stall mall collapse probe

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IOL pic nov21 tongaat mall collapse Reuters Police patrol near the half-built mall that collapsed in Tongaat, north of Durban.

Durban - A commission of inquiry into the collapse of Tongaat mall, north of Durban, was postponed hours after it began on Tuesday.

Two people were killed and 29 injured when the mall collapsed in November.

The labour department's occupational health and safety manager Phumudzo Maphaha postponed the inquiry after it emerged that the lawyer representing the safety consultant was also representing employees.

“You can't represent two parties. He's an employee and I want him represented independently,” Maphapha told lawyer Omprakash Ramlakhan.

Maphaha said Ramlakhan's representation of the safety consultant and employees presented a conflict of interest.

“What if they start pointing fingers at each other?” he asked.

Ronnie Pillay, a foreman who was working at the Tongaat Mall construction site when it collapsed on November 19, would have given evidence on Tuesday.

All the companies involved in building the mall were represented by lawyer Saleem Khan.

Maphaha urged the eThekwini Municipality to furnish the inquiry with an engineer's report. He said the report had been promised at the end of December but despite the promise the commission still had not received it.

The mall was being developed by Rectangle Property Investments, but the company, headed by Ravi Jagadasan, had not been granted permission by the eThekwini municipality to build the mall.

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

Jagadasan is the son of Durban businessman Jay Singh, who is reportedly behind a string of construction projects in Durban that have been plagued by shoddy workmanship.

The inquiry resumes on Wednesday.

Sapa



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