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Homeowner to sue over hole …

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... despite giving assurances from emergency services that the hole poses no danger

COVER UP: Zinc sheets cover the massive hole which appeared after a heavy downpour earlier this year. Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE CITY resident who woke up to discover a massive hole in the ground next to her house in De Beers Terrace last month, intends taking the matter to court despite assurances from emergency services that the hole poses no danger.

The hole appeared next to the house, which is part of the Hull Street housing project, after a heavy downpour in August resulted in a layer of soil covering a man-made shaft caving in.

The homeowner, Sarah Matshedisho, has indicated that she no longer wants to live in the house due to safety concerns, while it would also be difficult to sell the property.

Following a site inspection and the commissioning of a report from Ekapa Mining on the outcome of its physical inspection and its findings, Sol Plaatje Municipality emergency services senior manager, Tinus Pretorius, was satisfied that the contractor could safely restore the area to its original status.

“The activity which took place is not a natural sinkhole but is related to old water wells created in the early years,” said Pretorius.

According to the geotechnical report, the vertical, man-made shaft measured approximately three metres by 2.5 metres by seven metres deep.

“The shaft was found on the right-hand side of the house and extends about one metre under the floor of the house. The foundation of the house is supported by a steel beam.”

It pointed out that there were reports of sagging in the area around the foundation, whereupon the building contractor installed the steel beam where the left-hand corner of the excavation seemed to be supported with corrugated iron.

“The building contractor should have informed the authorities of this and back-filled and compacted this excavation before proceeding to build on top of the excavation.”

In contrast, a report compiled by the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) noted poor soil conditions, “comprising of rubble”, around the site of the house, where the sudden collapse formed a hole with a depth of 7.5 metres.

“Amongst the rubble, there are two stretches of steel perceived to be old railway tracks at 1.2 metres and seven metres of an unused mineshaft.”

It advised that a thorough geotechnical investigation be conducted to ascertain the size, extent and cause of the hole.

“The outcome of the investigation will determine if certain sections of the area can be excluded from residential development. The foundation solution employed on the site is the normal construction comprising conventional strip foundation. There was material placed on the adjacent erf comprising of boulders, bricks, broken tiles and rubble. These materials were alleged to have been placed there by the contractor to be used for rehabilitation.”

The report also indicated that no structural damage to the house was detected.

“There was also no evidence of sinkhole trigger mechanism such as water leaks. However, the homeowner is concerned about her safety and that of her immediate family. The occurrence of the sinkhole poses a risk to the safety of the property and human lives.”

The head of the legal unit of the South African Civics Organisation, Ross Henderson, who commissioned the NHBRC report, stated that legal action would be taken against Sol Plaatje Municipality and the developers as well as the building contractor.

“We will request the bank to cancel the bank guarantee as the property should never have been built on old mining ground. The excavation has significantly devalued the property. The necessary geotechnical studies should have been completed before construction started, while the foundation was not properly reinforced.”