Mozambique: Portuguese Companies Accused of Negligence

Maputo – The commission of inquiry set up by the Mozambican government to ascertain the circumstances of the collapse on 20 February of a wall at the Olympic swimming pool in the outer Maputo suburb of Zimpeto has found signs of negligence on part of the building contractor and the supervisory company.

The wall collapsed on top of a car driven by the national swimming coach, Frederico dos Santos, killing him. The collapse injured his wife and son and seven others.

The swimming pool was built five years ago for the 2011 Maputo edition of the African Games. The contactor was a consortium of the Portuguese building companies Mota Engil and Soares da Costa.

These two companies were quick to deny all responsibility for the collapse. They claimed the wall had been built in line with all contractual obligations, and that the guarantee was only valid for one year.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, after the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet), the Minister of Public Works, Carlos Bonete, said the commission of inquiry had found a series of anomalies from the start of the construction of the Zimpeto complex. In particular, there were significant changes between what had been designed and the wall that was actually built.

Thus the wall should have contained stiffening rods to give it greater consistency, as well as openings through which winds could pass. The wall should also have been fixed to a metallic structure for greater security. The material used to build the wall was of a lower resistance than that required of buildings that could be exposed to high winds.

The short-cuts taken meant that the wall was unable to withstand the combination of high temperature and strong winds on 20 February. The temperature reached 45 degrees that day – which was the highest temperature recorded in Maputo for 65 years. The gusts of wind that evening reached 46 kilometres an hour,

Signs of trouble to come were clear from the early stages. Even when the wall was built, it developed fissures, said Bonete.

Alerted by the 20 February tragedy, the government is now ordering inspections of the structures adjacent to the collapsed wall. Bonete suggested it may be advisable to ensure a thorough inspection of the entire Zimpeto sports complex.

As for guarantees, the Minister pointed out that the steel used in screws should have a guarantee against corrosion of at least 15 years – but at Zimpeto the screws are showing signs of early deterioration.

Source: All Africa