DURBAN: 110214 Advocate Saleem Khan, seated, legal consultant Arvind Kissoon Singh, Jay Singh at the Tongaat Mall commission of inquiry yesterday. PICTURE: GCINA NDWALANE

Durban - Five months after the Tongaat Mall tragedy, the Department of Labour has confirmed it is processing compensation claims for workers.

However, the department said unemployment insurance could not be paid out as Gralio Precast - owned by Jay Singh - had not formally terminated the workers’ services.

Some of the Tongaat Mall workers have been hired at other sites managed by Gralio, but two workers have accused Gralio of abandoning them.

They claim they are also being hounded by Victoria Hospital in oThongathi (Tongaat) after Gralio failed to settle their medical bills of R70 000.

On November 19, eight workers were treated at the Mediclinic Victoria Hospital.

Two people were killed and and 29 were injured when a concrete slab at the mall collapsed.

Gralio spokesman, Prashalen Gounder, denied the company had abandoned workers and said it was not responsible for workers’ medical bills.

Due process had been followed and the medical bills would be paid by the Workmen’s Compensation Fund, once approved by the Department of Labour, he said.

Hospital manager, Jenny Meer, confirmed the bill was in the process of being settled.

She said Gralio had contacted the hospital two weeks ago.

“The company submitted the necessary workmen’s compensation fund forms and is in the process of settling the debt,” Meer said.

Skhumbuzo Ngcobo, 24, was hospatilised after he had sustained a broken arm and back injuries.

Ngcobo said he had been unable to find employment since the tragedy.

“I have tried to contact them (Gralio Precast), but they do not respond.

“I have also been getting calls from the hospital saying that I owe them money,” Ngcobo said.

The father-of-one said Gralio had promised to provide them with employment at another site.

But Ngcobo has not been contacted by the company.

He said Gralio had not even contacted him to discuss the compensation claim.

Gounder denied Ngcobo’s claims, saying he had been informed about everything that was happening.

Gounder also denied claims that Gralio had neglected workers after the collapse.

“Some of the workers from the Tongaat Mall site are working for us in Phoenix. It’s not true that we have neglected them,” he said.

Thomas Mindo, 28, who broke his arm in the incident and was also hospitalised, confirmed that some of the workers had been redeployed to a construction site in Phoenix.

“The hospital also kept harassing me to pay them.

“I am working again.

“They haven’t contacted me for a long time.

“I had gone home to Mozambique,” he said.

Mindo also said Gralio had not spoken to him about the workmen’s compensation fund and he was uncertain what would happen.

The Daily News also visited the home of Nomthandazo Nxumalo whose sister, Zakithi, died in the collapse.

Their mother declined to comment, saying she was still traumatised by the incident.

Gounder said they were trying to accommodate workers who had been left unemployed at other sites.

“Where possible and when vacancies occur, we do redeploy staff who have the required skills - skills that we need,” he said.

He said they were anxiously waiting for the Department of Labour to hand back the Tongaat Mall site.

“Once it is handed back, we can do remedial work and labour will be sourced from those employees who were working on this site originally,” Gounder said.

Spokesman for the Department of Labour, Nhlanhla Khumalo, confirmed they were handling the compensation process for the workers.

“The commission is currently investigating matters of non-compliance with related legal matters which may have been contravened by the employer,” he said.

“Once the inquiry is concluded, a report will be made available to all affected parties including media,” Khumalo said.

Daily News