Tongaat Mall Collapse Hearings Start in February

Pretoria - A four-person commission of inquiry -- set up to look into the Tongaat Mall disaster -- is expected to formally start its evidence gathering work in February.

The Tongaat Mall Commission of Inquiry, established by the Department of Labour, has been tasked to investigate the series of events that led to the tragic Tongaat Mall collapse last year.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Labour Department said the exact details on the commencement date of the commission will be made known in due course once the commission has received all outstanding reports from affected parties.

The commission, once it has concluded its work, it is expected to prepare a report of its findings, and make recommendations that will be presented to Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, the Department of Labour's Chief Inspector Thobile Lamati and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions for their consideration.

A Section 32 hearing is usually appointed by the department against parties whose negligence results in occupational injuries and death of workers.

Last year, following the tragic collapse of the Tongaat Mall in November, the department appointed its Manager: Occupational Health and Safety, Phumudzo Maphaha, to preside over the commission to investigate events leading to the collapse of the Tongaat Mall. The collapse of the Tongaat Shopping Mall left two persons dead and 29 others injured.

"To date, members of the commission have visited and assessed the site. All interested stakeholders represented by their legal representatives and workers were also engaged. There were a number of issues that the commission will be pursuing with the contractors during the hearings," said Maphaha.

The hearings will be held at Municipal offices in Tongaat. It is expected that the commission will conclude its work in six months, bar any unforeseen events.

"We expect to call between 20 and 50 witnesses to appear before the commission for interviews. In a month, we expect the commission to sit for at least two weeks.

"The hearings will be held from Tuesdays to Fridays. Mondays will be used by members of the commission for preparations. The pace of our work would be dependent on the availability of stakeholders" said Maphaha.

"The hearings will start at 9am to 5pm. The Department of Labour expects to spend about R2 million on the work of the commission."