Strike Ramabani, DA ward councillor in Orange Grove, said he was surprised the entire building did not cave in after an alleged speeding taxi plunged into four pillars supporting the building’s overhead structure.
The incident took place around 7am when two minibus taxis nearly collided on Louis Botha Avenue, but one driver allegedly veered to the left and struck pillars, causing parts of the overhead structure to fall on the two taxis and a small vehicle parked overnight on the pavement. The car belonged to the tavern owner.
Seventeen 17 people were injured.
Qhubeka Ncube, the driver of the second taxi, had been driving ahead of the taxi that allegedly caused the accident when its driver lost control.
“He was directly behind me driving at high speed and then he realised that traffic had come to a standstill. That’s when he veered to the side to avoid rear-ending my vehicle and hit the pillars,” said Ncube.
Netcare 911 spokesman Nick Dollman said two people sustained moderate injuries while 15 escaped with minor injuries.
“The incident and preceding events will form part of a police investigation,” said Dollman.
Ramabani said the building has been an eyesore for more than 20 years as it was crumbling.
“It’s been rotting away and we have been asking for it to be demolished. It was a disaster waiting to happen. Unfortunately, someone needed to be injured before this thing could be addressed.”
He said the tavern contravened several by-laws which compromised the environment. “The tenant made illegal alterations and renovations to accommodate people who live in rooms at the back of the tavern.
“This is illegal because the place is zoned as a commercial property and not residential space We will now compile all these incidents and take them to council for this place to be demolished,” said Ramabani.
Roger Chadwick, chairman of the Orange Grove Ratepayers’ Association, said the tavern was operating from a poorly maintained heritage building over 60 years old.
He said Wednesday’s incident was a combination of poor law enforcement on taxi drivers and bad management by council.
“That building has a history of instability which is exacerbated by illegal land use that has made it inhabitable,” said Chadwick.
Tavern owner Joseph Ngubane did not want to be drawn on his business operations. “All I want to know is who will pay for the damages to my car. My car is the backbone of my business. How am I supposed to continue feeding my family without this business?” asked Ngubane.
EMS spokesman Robert Mulaudzi said the condition of the building before the incident would not form part of their investigation. “Yes the building was old but this was purely an accident,” he said.