14 December 2012

Namibia: Malls Built On Greed

TOWN councillors and CEOs in emerging towns keep talking about shopping malls as salvation to the woes of their towns. They call them ‘development’ and ‘investment’ coming their way.

Well, now that kind of ‘development’ and ‘investment’ has killed and seriously injured Sunday shoppers at the Ondangwa Pick n Pay building because of a collapsing beam that pulled the ceiling down onto innocent people either working to make a living or being ‘valued’ customers to Pick n Pay.

How far is greed taking those who sell land, issue building permits, building inspectors at municipalities and contractors? How far are investment companies willing to go to make an extra buck? The O & L Group – owners of Pick n Pay Namibia – were already issuing statements of shock and empathy just minutes after the collapse of their business outlet in Ondangwa. What safety standards do companies require and adhere to?

What about the new Safland mall being built in Ondangwa with GIPF [Government Institutions Pension Fund] money? Is it safe to fill up a dam with sand and then construct enormous buildings on top of it?!

Ondangwa is a flood-prone area. Cement slabs as foundations will simply not do. Filling up ‘oshanas' with compacted sand is not only unsafe, it will also re-direct flood water. The Safland constructors filled a dam and elevated the ground in a river area which will cause flooding of an informal settlement nearby. But, who cares about the poor living in zinc shacks?

At least two lives were taken when the interior of Pick n Pay collapsed in Ondangwa on Sunday 2 December most probably because of a bearing beam not holding up.

We don’t want O&L sympathies and condolences; we want answers as to how this could have happened!

The Pick n Pay disaster in Ondangwa must be seriously investigated by independent investigators. An enquiry into Ondangwa Town Council and its questionable inspection of buildings under construction must be opened. The building inspection records of the Pick n Pay building must be scrutinised by expertise.

No stone should be left unturned in investigating the work carried out by the various constructors of the Pick n Pay building. Lastly, the owners of Pick ’n Pay Namibia – the O & L Group - should take full responsibility.

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