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Tongaat Mall collapse: Three years later and still no answers

Kwa-Zulu Natal
Durban - Three years after a concrete slab collapsed and crushed her to death, Zakithi Nxumalo’s family still does not know the truth about the events that led to that tragic Tuesday afternoon at the Tongaat Mall construction site.

The 28-year-old mother of three from KwaMashu was a bricklayer at the mall, which was being built by Gralio Precast, a company owned by businessman Jay Singh.

The R208-million project was being developed by Rectangle Property Investments, whose sole director is Ravi Jagadasan, Singh’s son.

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Phumuzile Nxumalo wants to know the truth about the events that led to her daughter’s death three years ago. Picture: BONGANI MBATHA

The collapse also killed Zweli Masuku, 51, and injured 29 other construction workers.

“To date we still don’t know what happened because everyone became evasive when the commission of inquiry was appointed, but nothing came out of that as well because we haven’t seen the report,” said Zakithi’s mother Phumuzile Nxumalo.

In 2014 Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the mall’s collapse and it found several contraventions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and construction regulations.

Shoddy construction methods were blamed for the collapse.

The commission also highlighted failure to prepare and work from drawings, lack of knowledge to execute the task by supervisors and the use of defective materials, including imported cement which did not meet the SA Bureau of Standards requirements.

No decision

In 2015 Oliphant said the full report would not be made public but instead was handed over to the National Prosecutions Authority to determine whether anyone should be prosecuted. However that decision has not been made.

“We have received the report. The report has been assigned to a senior prosecutor who is still studying it to decide on a way forward,” said the KZN director of public prosecutions, advocate Moipone Noko.

Meanwhile, Nxumalo said fears for the future of her grandchildren and the lack of answers about her daughter’s death kept her up at night.

She was afraid Zakithi’s children would be left stranded if she died before the matter was concluded.

“We all watched her (Oliphant) on television the day she was talking about the commission’s report and were quite disappointed when she didn’t say much about who was to blame and what was supposed to happen. Since then we haven’t heard anything, I worry that the truth will only come out when I’m dead,” said Nxumalo.

The 60-year-old had hoped Oliphant’s report would also address the issue of compensation to the Nxumalo and Masuku families because they both lost breadwinners.

“I was a single mother and when Zakithi started working she took over the responsibility of supporting this family and that’s why she never moved out of home even though she had her own children.”

Like her mother, Zakithi was also a single parent and Nxumalo now supports her grandchildren, who are all under the age of 12, on R1200 she gets from the Department of Labour monthly.

She said the responsi- bility was taking its toll on her because R900 a month went towards paying for scholar transport for the 11 and 8-year-olds.

“I’ve gone to tell them that R1 200 is not enough, but I haven’t received a favourable response. In December 2015 I went to Gralio to see if they can’t help with anything and they said they would get back to me once they’ve discussed it but I’ve heard nothing since.”

She said that just before Zakithi died she had bought a plot of land outside Verulam where the family planned to move, but now could not afford to build a house there.

Sunday Tribune

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