Bheki Cele says George building developers 'are holding back information' about the collapse

Emergency services are still searching for 41 workers in the rubble. Photo: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

Emergency services are still searching for 41 workers in the rubble. Photo: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

Published May 13, 2024


Cape Town - Visiting the site where an apartment building under construction collapsed a week ago, Police Minister Bheki Cele yesterday said the developer of the project had not been forthcoming with information.

The death toll from the collapsed building last night stood at 20 as rescue workers continued their attempts to search and recover those who had been entombed in concrete and steel. Thirty-two people remained unaccounted for.

Speaking to the media at the site, Cele said the developers and the contractors had been secretive about revealing details of the workers on the site.

“Indeed, they (police) are working with them to get information. But if information is not forthcoming the police are instructed to enforce and uphold the law,” said Cele.

According to the minister, the companies involved in the project had refused to hand over documents of the workers, and had also refused to meet with their families.

“There’s nothing wrong to just go and say (to the families), ‘we sympathise with you, we can’t talk but we’ll work with you’,” said Cele.

Last week the company which owns the land distanced itself from the employment of construction workers on the site.

Neo Victoria Developments (Pty) Ltd released a statement via their attorney, Hanno Brummer & Associates, to “clear up misunderstandings and incorrect information”.

The law firm stated that its client was the developer of the building project and not the building contractor.

They clarified that the contractor was appointed by their client to oversee the construction of the building.

The statement said the developers had no employees on the site and the workers had either been employed by contractors or sub-contractors.

It further said that Neo Victoria was assisting police in their investigation and had offered its assistance since day one.

Previously, Theuns Kruger, director of Liatel Developments, the contracted builder of the structure, said they were trying to assist those on site of the five-storey residential building.

“The investigations to follow obviously will reveal what has transpired and what has happened, but at this point it’s just saving as many people as we possibly can,” Kruger said.

The George Municipality said a pre-application form for the proposed development was submitted on September 3, 2020, by Jan Vrolijk, a town planner acting on behalf of the owners of land. The building plan application was approved on July 6 last year, and issued to the applicant.

“The plans were only approved once the building control officer was satisfied the requirements were met,” said George Municipality spokesperson Chantel Edwards. “The value of the development was estimated at R39 544 000 at the time of approval.

“The development consisted of a basement parking area, ground-floor parking, and four floors of residential apartments above the parking. There are 42 apartments proposed and approved on the building plans.

“The municipality has no record of previous safety violations by the developer within the George municipal area,” Edwards said.

She further explained compliance during construction. “The developer with his professional team is not obliged to submit any compliance report to the municipality. The normal practice is that the owner and developer, together with their professional team, will have weekly/bi-weekly, or monthly meetings and inspections where progress reports are submitted to the owner/client,” Edwards said.

Cape Argus