Anger at delays in bridge collapse inquiry
Tomorrow, 14 October, will be two years since the temporary pedestrian bridge collapsed, however, victims are far from getting closure or knowing what caused the accident because last month the inquiry was postponed to July. The process is due to continue until September.
Following the collapse, the Department of Labour set up a Section 23 inquiry and, to date, five expert witnesses have appeared before the inquiry. They include an expert witness from Form-Scaff, Garry Farrow, and civil engineer Richard Beneke, Ric Snowden and Dr Stefanus Francois van Zyl, all representing the construction company Murray & Roberts.
One victim, Irvin Katangane, 23, said the postponement made him feel like those tasked with finding out what happened did not care.
“Everyone who was affected by the accident didn’t wake up and ask the bridge to fall on them. If they keep on postponing, what do they want us to think?"
'What kind of people are they?'
Before the day that changed his life, Katangane had obtained a bursary to study for a business degree. However, he opted to do a business management course so that he could get a job quickly and help his mother financially, and also build a better life for his family. He obtained an internship and was one month into it at the time of the collapse.
Katangane and his colleagues were travelling in a taxi from Sunninghill to the Joburg CBD and he remembers the fateful day as if it were yesterday. “The taxi in front of us was short of one or two people, so we decided to take the next one, so that we could travel as a team.”
He sat in the front seat with his colleague, Bryce Carlinsky.
“As we were approaching the bridge, it started shaking. I started screaming at the driver that he should stop, but he could not. Bryce was also screaming at me to tell the driver to stop. He just couldn’t.
“When I realised that he was unable to stop, I started praying and closed my eyes. When I opened them, I saw the driver was hit by a pole on his chest and Bryce was bleeding from the face.”
The driver died and the two passengers were trapped in the taxi for more than an hour. Katangane passed out when the roof of the taxi was removed and people started taking pictures.
He woke up in hospital, to find a catheter attached to him, and that he was unable to walk.
“When I woke up and saw the catheter and my father crying, I thought this meant it was bad and that I would never walk again,” Katangane says.
He was discharged from hospital after two weeks and used a wheelchair to get about, while going for therapy to learn how to walk again. The wheelchair was provided by Murray and Roberts, who were constructing the bridge. Four months after the collapse, Katangane decided to go back to work but it was not easy.
“When I went back to work, I did not remember anything. Even passing by the bridge was traumatic. I would play Candy Crush from MTN (Noord) Taxi Rank until Sunninghill. I was not okay.”
He decided to resign and concentrate on getting better.
Katangane says his physical health is better and he can now concentrate on rebuilding his life. “I had been looking for a job, with no luck. I then started a baking business with some of my friends. We started baking vetkoek and muffins.”
However, the partnership did not work and he now runs the baking business on his own.
“Baking is my passion," he said. "I just worked at my previous job because my mother needed help with a second income. I knew it would not be a long-term thing.”
'Justice not served'
Last week, Gauteng Premier David Makhura visited Katangane and Carlinsky. His spokesperson, Phumla Sekhonyane, said the Gauteng provincial government would assist the families by providing counselling and access to medical care at public health and social development facilities.
The arbitration process that has just begun into the deaths of more than 100 Life Esidimeni patients breaks Katangane’s heart.
“I find it sad that things that happened after our accident are being attended to. This shows that justice is not served for all of us. I am alive but there are people who lost their breadwinners. How are they supposed to survive?” he asked.
The construction of the M1 Grayston pedestrian bridge was expected to be completed by the end of October 2017.