Collapsed Bridge on M1

<img src="collapsed bridge.jpg" alt="Collapsed bridge" width="300" height="185">

Tragedy: Collapsed Bridge on M1

Tangled wreckage of red metal sprawls across Johannesburg’s M1 highway near a busy off-ramp leading to the Sandton financial district where the stock exchange is located, visible to rush-hour traffic. It looks like some macabre installation art, but it horribly real.

Murray & Roberts shares take a tumble

Two people died and 20 people were injured when scaffolding for a bridge collapsed over Johannesburg’s main motorway on Wednesday. The loss of life and the injuries and possible consequences to the injured parties and their loved ones, is a tragedy. The immediate responses to this disaster were, however, indicative of an out-of-kilter society.

Good reactions:

  • Murray & Roberts, the construction company responsible for building the footbridge, will cover the costs of the funerals. Presumably they will also pay compensation to the families of the deceased as well as the injured. A pro-active response is appropriate and just. Senior directors of Murray & Roberts, including its Group CEO Henry Lass, have been on site helping rescue and clearing operations since the incident occurred.
  • To contact the families of those affected and ensure they are being taken care of and to clear the scene so that motorists in Johannesburg are able to commute, are clearly the priorities.
  • The construction and rescue teams have worked tirelessly to restore safety and the use of the road. Sometimes the only redemptive factor during times of distress lies in this kind of commitment and concern. As well, the selfless risk to personal safely and comfort is often not acknowledged. The unsung heroes are often the fire fighter/ rescue / emergency / ambulance / paramedic teams. They deserve our gratitude: Pictures of bombed sites during WW11, earthquakes, 9/11, floods, sea rescue efforts, and many more flash before one’s eyes. They often remain nameless while we all know the sick glamour that attaches to tyrants and gangsters, murderers and dictators, smugglers and fraudsters.
  • The city of Johannesburg is on the scene and involved.
  • Trade union federation Cosatu expressed its shock and sadness over the incident.
  • The Department of Labour was already on the scene on Wednesday night
  • as was Mayor Parks Tau who announced that the City of Johannesburg had appointed independent engineers to conduct an investigation on its behalf.
  • The Engineering Council of South Africa (Ecsa) is expected to investigate the cause of the collapse.
  • Motorists were asked to use park-and-ride facilities that were inaugurated for the Sandton Ecomobility Festival.
  • The City announced that Metrobus services would be increased, fees would be scrapped on the park-and-rides and that Gautrain and Putco busses would be free on certain routes and that JMPD would deploy pointsmen on alternative routes.
  • Uber offered free rides to Gautrain stations on Wednesday night for people stranded as a result of the bridge collapse and free rides to Gautrain station on Thursday morning until 9:00.

Bad reactions:

  • Share price of the construction group Murray & Roberts, the contractor behind the project, are tumbling. Immediately after the incident on Wednesday afternoon the company’s share price dropped sharply by 7.32% to R11.15, leaving it 48.37% lower than a year ago.
  • This comes when trust in the construction industry from government, (the industry’s major client), is at a low level following the earlier 2010 World Cup stadia collusion, and the hearings before the Competition Tribunal.
  • The supplier of the scaffolding deftly and immediately shifted blame. Denial seems a bit callous under the circumstances. Silence would have been less hurtful until investigations have proceeded. Temporary form work is integral to any building project and a more responsible or compassionate response would have been more appropriate.
  • Cosatu demanded a “thorough and transparent investigation” and for “the responsible parties to be held accountable, if any wrongdoing is found.” This reaction seems rather disproportionate. Is it because it is a private company that they feel they must jump up-and-down? The same attention is not focused on disasters perpetrated by government, nor does Cosatu focus on on-going loss of life caused by violence against women and children. Are the two lives lost of more value than others?

Arrive Alive

10‚000 pedestrians used the bridge.

The Ecomobility Festival aims at getting people to use public transport instead of private vehicles. This incident is a sad setback to a valuable cause.

Crisis shows us what we are. This incident draws attention to problems that range from faults in the engineering/constructing industry to the poverty in the humanities.

Let us hope that something of lasting value can be salvaged alongside the practical. All the good stuff that Ubuntu upholds are there, but it is important that we admit our shadow if we are to have real substance.

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Ref: BD Live