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Tongaat mall scaffolding ‘removed too soon’

Durban - Scaffolding at the Tongaat Mall outside Durban, part of which caved in last year, was removed too soon, a commission of inquiry into the collapse heard on Thursday.

A worker, Siyabonga Zuma, testified he believed that the concrete had been given enough time to cure, but that the supports holding up the beams on which a concrete slab rested had been removed too soon.

Controversial Durban businessman Jay Singh. Photo: Puri Devjee. Credit: INLSA

“The scaffolding was taken down too quickly. It was needed elsewhere.”

Zuma said before removing the scaffolding and supports he had not noticed anything strange.

“There was only a small area that still needed to be stripped (on the day). There were only supports under a beam.”

Zuma was giving evidence to the commission headed by the department of labour's occupational health and safety manager Phumudzo Maphaha, tasked with investigating the collapse.

A section of the mall, which was under construction, collapsed on November 19 last year. Two people died and 29 were injured.

Zuma described the events that followed the removal of the supports holding up the beam.

“The neck of the column 1/8under the beam 3/8 started to explode,” he said.

“Everything was shaking. Within two or three seconds we were shouting and were able to run. Then everything fell down. I am not sure what happened. There was lots of dust.”

On Wednesday, the commission heard that some of the steel bars needed to reinforce a beam holding a concrete slab were missing.

Sipho Mbuyisa, whose company Mbuyisa Steel Fixing Services CC was responsible for all the steel required in the construction, testified that his team had fitted 19 steel bars in the beam.

This was done in accordance with the engineer's plans. He was surprised to learn that there were only seven bars in the beam.

The inquiry continues.

Sapa

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