Tongaat Mall tragedy reveals shoddy Construction practices

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In the case of the unfinished Tongaat Mall disaster, the South African building industry must weed out dodgy contractors and take strict action against shoddy property development practices. In the case of the unfinished Tongaat Mall disaster, the South African building industry must weed out dodgy contractors and take strict action against shoddy property development practices.

In the case of the unfinished Tongaat Mall disaster, the South African building industry must weed out dodgy contractors and take strict action against shoddy property development practices.

The eThekwini Metro municipality is considering trying to force a developer to demolish the illegal shopping mall that partially collapsed in Tongaat, north of Durban, killing a woman and injuring 29 people.

"Council is now looking at options not only of bringing an action for [a] contempt of court decision, but also the possibility of an order for the owner to demolish the collapsed structure," eThekwini metro municipal manager Sibusiso Sithole said on Thursday.

The increase in the mining of substandard building materials by illegal quarry operators could lead to building and construction site collapses as happened at Tongaat last week, an industry body warned.

The Aggregate and Sand Producers’ Association, a member of the Chamber of Mines representing firms producing aggregate and sand used in concrete products, says building collapses could be imminent in South Africa. It warned recently that building collapses such as those seen in Ghana and Nigeria may happen in South Africa unless attention was paid to specifying appropriate materials to meet the design criteria of buildings.

This year in particular there have been several reports of building collapses, the investigation of which revealed that inappropriate design and unsuitable building materials were to blame.

Nico Pienaar, director of the association and also the Southern Africa Readymix Association, said incorrectly specified materials might lead to building collapses.

Earlier this year, several high-ranking companies appeared before the Competition Commission for collusion on the construction of the FIFA 2010 World Cup stadia.

Despite overwhelming evidence of corruption within the multi-billion rand sector, there's no independent body to regulate the industry.

"The size and the complexity of these projects are such that the construction industry is often exposed to corruptible practices," said Ithumeleng Dlamini from Masters Builders’ Association.

"These projects are often undertaken through various stages, such as project planning through the design phase through tendering the prequalification to the actual construction work.

"There has been talk around the introduction or the possibility of introducing an ombudsman in the industry,” said Dlamini,

He said the absence of a regulatory body does not mean there is no current ombudsman or no mechanisms in place to deal with complaints.

The contracting company – owned by Jay Singh -- was issued with an order to stop the construction days before the building collapsed.

Singh's contracting company has won numerous lucrative tenders from the eThekweni municipality, the same municipality which ignored an auditor’s report citing sub-standard work on his previous projects.

With the cracks in the industry now fully exposed, the true extent of the rot will only be revealed after an investigation into the incident.

Residents of another of Singh's developments, Shereen Mews, are also in dispute with the controversial businessman. Singh's development company, Woodglaze Trading is accused of reneging on a rent-to-buy deal, of forcing evictions, and of shoddy workmanship.

READ MORE ON:

Construction Industry in South Africa  |  Durban Property Market  |  Ethekwini Municipality  |  Jay Singh  |  Tongaat Mall

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