George building: engineer suspended, victims still waiting for support

The site of the collapsed building has been handed over to the owner of the building. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/Independent Newspapers

The site of the collapsed building has been handed over to the owner of the building. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/Independent Newspapers

Published Jun 22, 2024


Cape Town - The Engineering Council of South Africa (Ecsa) has placed an engineer overseeing the construction of the George building that collapsed on precautionary suspension.

Eighty-one people were working at the Victoria Street building that collapsed on May 6, killing 34 workers and injuring many more.

Earlier this week, the Ecsa said the decision, a preventative measure, was undertaken to protect any potential and/or actual prejudice to public health and safety as a result of engineering-related undertakings.

“The precautionary suspension is not a disciplinary action, but a temporary removal of and/or restriction on all of the registered person's rights, privileges, and/or activities associated with professional registration with the Ecsa,” a statement read.

Ecsa states that until a decision is reached about any charges against the engineer and/or the resolution of any further disciplinary action or appeal, the suspension will remain in place.

The name of the engineering company is not known; however, in the statement it is referred to Mitchell and Associates, and that within seven calendar days, a comprehensive list of all engineering-related undertakings, projects and services rendered by the registered person in both personal and professional capacities, whether trading under the name and style of Mitchell and Associates, or otherwise, must be submitted.

The incident, described as something never witnessed before, stunned not only locals but the whole of the Western Cape. Ecsa said at a minimum, the draft design and as-built drawings of the projects must be provided.

“Within three weeks thereafter, the contractor or accountable party for the project is required to provide an independent engineer's report concerning the structural integrity of the structure.

“This report must be compiled by a registered person, specifically a structural engineer, with no less than 10 years of experience, who has actively practised in the field of structural engineering and who is/was not involved as a project team member. The report should address the structural assessment and structural integrity of the engineering-related undertakings,” Ecsa said.

“After taking into account these conclusions, the Investigating Committee shall advise the council on any necessary actions pertaining to the council's responsibilities and/or

authority as specified under the Act.”

The site was returned to the owner two weeks ago while the police investigation continues and the Department of Employment and Labour concludes its investigation. However, authorities are keeping their cards close, while the families of the survivors and victims try to move on with their lives.

The site was reportedly handed over to the police by the George Municipality on May 17. The police then reportedly gave it to the Department, which then handed it over to the landowner, Neo Victoria Developments.

Provincial police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Malcolm Pojie said the police investigation into the incident was not yet finalised.

Jason Lloyd, a spokesperson for the Department, claimed the site was found to be of no benefit to them as it had been completely stripped, so they had to rely on the materials moved to secured areas.

The site was only cleared after an extensive search and recovery operation that lasted 11 days.

“So, yes, we handed the site back to the employer. We are currently busy with the investigation in terms of Section 31 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and because of the number of people to be interviewed, we cannot put any time frames,” he said.

Premier Alan Winde also previously indicated that a team of structural engineers, V3 Consulting Engineers, was leading the provincial government's investigation, which comprises several phases.

George Municipality spokesperson Chantèl Edwards further revealed that the municipality was not privy to the outcomes of the criminal or health and safety investigations.

The Weekend Argus has sent an enquiry to Ryan du Preez, who is believed to be the developer's attorney, who is yet to respond.

At the laying of a wreath near the site in May, President Cyril Ramaphosa committed resources to assist with the support of victims and grieving families. But families of the victims claim that they are still waiting for the proposed support from the government.

It was also believed that there would be some financial assistance for those in the hospital and for those who had to be buried.

The Presidency has yet to indicate whether it has offered support to the families of the victims of the George building tragedy.