Cleansing ceremony honours victims of M1 scaffolding collapse

Cleansing ceremony honours victims of M1 scaffolding collapseLocal religious leaders cleanse the area where the M1 scaffolding collapse took place. (Photos by Elias Nkabinde) (CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION)

A moving ceremony, held at the site of the M1 scaffolding collapse, honoured the victims of the tragic accident while cleansing the site in preparation for resumption of construction of the pedestrian-cycling bridge over the highway.

Transport MMC Christine Walters opens the ceremonyTransport MMC Christine Walters opens the ceremony. (CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION)A moving cleansing ceremony was conducted by the City of Johannesburg and local religious leaders at the site of the M1 scaffolding collapse on Friday, 13 November in honour of the two people who died and 19 who were injured in the tragic incident that took place exactly a month prior.

The City saw it fitting to conduct the ceremony as an act of remembrance, healing, and cleansing of the site in preparation for resumption of construction of the pedestrian-cycling bridge, which will proceed only when a number of stringent conditions have been fulfilled.

"Today we are gathered to honour those that lost their lives and those who were injured in the tragic incident," Development Planning MMC Rosslyn Greeff told the small crowd of construction workers, City officials and religious leaders gathered on the M1 highway, which was closed for the duration of the ceremony.

Act of remembrance, healing and cleansing

MMCs, Dignitaries, the JMPD chaplaincy and local religious leaders observe a moment of silenceMMCs, Dignitaries, the JMPD chaplaincy and local religious leaders observe a moment of silence in honour of the two people who died and 19 people who were injured during the tragic accident. (CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION)MMC Greef stressed that the occasion was an act of devotion and remembrance for those who had suffered, directly and indirectly, from the tragedy which took place, at the site where they were gathered, on Wednesday, 14 October.

Of the 19 people who were injured, one is still in hospital and one is in a rehabilitation facility, while the City of Joburg continues to support the others with counselling and outpatient care.

"The cleansing ceremony aims to heal our hearts as a heavy-hearted City," the MMC said, adding that the City had first consulted with the families of those affected and had got their consent to conduct the ceremony.

"The purpose is also to pray for cleansing of the site so that we don't see any other accidents or tragedies happening here going into the future," she said.

As the gathering knelt and observed a moment of silence, four religious leaders - representing the city's Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Christian communities - joined a traditional healer in praying and conducting cleansing rituals at the places on the highway where the scaffolding for construction of the bridge collapsed.

Formal inquiry, independent investigation

The cleansing was also aimed at preparing the site for the resumption of construction of the bridgeThe cleansing was also aimed at preparing the site for the resumption of construction of the bridge. (CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION)The City of Joburg said on Friday that it would be co-operating fully with the Department of Labour, which has launched a formal inquiry to establish the cause of the accident, a process which is expected to last six months.

The City has also appointed structural engineers to conduct an independent investigation looking both at the cause of the accident and at remedial steps to be taken.

The Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) has been given permission by the Department of Labour to proceed with construction of the pedestrian-cycling bridge once certain steps have been taken and approvals granted.

The bridge over the highway will form a key part of a dedicated, five-kilometre walking and cycling pathway which the JDA is busy constructing between the historically divided suburbs of Alexandra and Sandton, aimed at serving the estimated 10 000 people who walk or cycle from Alex to Sandton and back daily.

"The City remains committed to constructing a bridge to give the thousands of people who travel between Alexandra, Marlboro, Wynberg and Sandton each day the dignity they deserve," the City said.

Stringent conditions to prevent recurrence

Transport MMC Christine Walters and Development Planning MMC Rosslyn GreeffTransport MMC Christine Walters and Development Planning MMC Rosslyn Greeff observe a moment's silence.However, construction would only be allowed to resume "when firstly, both the JDA and the contractor [Murray & Roberts] have demonstrated that they have put in place all possible risk mitigation measures to avoid a reoccurrence of this tragic accident and secondly, after the Department of Labour has approved the design and construction methodology going forward".

The JDA and Murray & Roberts will also approach the Department of Labour for permission to remove the remnants of the collapsed temporary works to a safe and secured storage space offsite, in case they are needed by investigators during the inquiry and investigations.

Once construction resumes, the JDA has committed to conducting frequent occupational health and safety (OHS) inspections, and will ensure that a full-time OHS practitioner is on site to ensure that, as far as reasonably practical, the contractor adheres to all OHS requirements.

"This therefore means that the project completion will be unfortunately be delayed, with the targeted completion date now being April 2017," the City said.

The City extended its appreciation once more to all the men and women who were part of the rescue operation on 14 October, and "continues to wish those who were injured during this terrible accident a successful recovery".