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MBABANE - Two foreign nationals died on the spot yesterday when they were trapped under marble stones, which they were offloading at Inyatsi Construction Goup Holdings (Pty) Ltd depot.

The depot is located below the International Convention Centre and Five-Star Hotel (ICC & FISH) construction site. Another foreign national survived with minor injuries. An eyewitness said the three men were offloading the marble stones, which were in an intermodal container at the depot in Ezulwini. The incident happened at around 11am. Information gathered was to the effect that the deceased were of Asian descent and were among other employees who were assigned to offload building material, when the marble stones fell on them. A source close to the matter informed this publication that the other employees managed to escape when they saw the marble stones falling.


“The container was delivered last week and it has to be taken back to India. The employees were used to offloading the heavy material using their hands. “Normally, eight or more people offload the material. It was unfortunate that the material fell on them, killing the two yesterday,” said one of the people who attended to the scene. The source stated that the injured employee was treated by paramedics, who swiftly arrived at the scene. According to the source, a Bobcat machine was brought to the scene after the incident had happened. Material
A Bobcat machine is used to push materials from one location to another, carry materials around in its bucket, and load materials into trucks or trailers. “The duo was already dead when the load was removed,” said another source.

The other source mentioned that they thought only one worker had died, due to the incident but after clearing the marble stones on the floor, a second body was found motionless on the ground. He also pointed out that a third employee sustained minor injuries but had to be rushed to hospital. “Immediately after the incident, one of the foreign nationals was certified dead and another sustained injuries. As they continued removing the marble stones, which are quite heavy, another body was discovered. We were shocked by the incident,” said the source. News suggesting that two people had died while several employees were injured and rushed to hospital started making the rounds on social media shortly after the incident.  


Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Phindile Vilakati confirmed that two men had died at the Inyatsi Construction site yesterday while another sustained an injury. “I can confirm that we have received a report about two men who died at Inyatsi Construction site, while another sustained injuries,” she said. Efforts to get a comment from Inyatsi Construction Group Holdings were futile. Several attempts were made to reach the Chief Executive Officer, Derrick Shiba, but his phone rang unanswered. A questionnaire was also sent to Nilson Biton, who is normally stationed at the ICC&FISH site, where Inyatsi is a contractor. However, at the time of compiling this report, he had not responded to the questionnaire. He had been asked to shed light regarding the incident and whether the deceased were employed by Inyatsi, a subsidiary company or contractor, among other questions.
The incident happened hardly 24 hours after the construction company had announced a cash reward of E500 000 following the burning of its property.


The company said the money would be given to anyone who may share information regarding the arson attacks. While no direct link could be confirmed between the area where the incident happened and the ICC&FISH, it was alleged by some of the employees that some of the material used in the construction of the convention centre and hotel was stored at the depot where the two men died. Worth noting, on September 14, 2019, this publication revealed that about E78 million was to be spent by government in fitting bathrooms at the  ICC & FISH, with each bathroom costing the taxpayer at least E275 000. The information was gathered from impeccable sources. It was also reported that the ICC & FISH was expected to cost the taxpayer approximately E4 billion.


It was noted that the bathrooms were manufactured and assembled in Italy and fitted by a local company based in Matsapha. Our sister publication, Eswatini News, gathered that about 283 rooms required to be fitted with bathrooms in the FISH. Eswatini News, in the same year, 2019, investigated some allegations that the cost of fitting the bathrooms would shoot up to E94 million with miscellaneous costs involved. It was also gathered that plans had already been drawn for a proposed loan bill of US$ 83 million (E1.1 billion), which the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development would require to take the work to completion. A parliamentary source said the amount spent on the bathroom was too alarming and created an impression that government was a spendthrift on the budget for the construction works.  The source questioned why the bathrooms had to be imported from Italy since there were several emaSwati who could deliver same, if not more luxurious bathrooms, at a lesser cost.


In that same year, Dr Tambo Gina, the Economic Planning and Development Minister, confirmed that pods were bought in 2017 but was non-committal on the monies involved. “There are some bathroom pods that were bought around 2017,” he said. When this project commenced in 2012, government estimated that it would cost around E370 million; with the ICC expected to set the taxpayer back by E290 million and the FISH anticipated to be completed with the amount of E80 million. At the time, the FISH was referred to as the Millennium Hotel. That financial year (2012/2013), E65 million and E80 million in local funds for the ICC and Millennium Hotel were released, respectively.


The project is still ongoing and the cost is far beyond the E370 million. This figure is now a mere fraction of what this project is forecasted to cost.  The ICC&FISH project stands on land said to measure 40 000 square metres and the convention centre will host up to 4 500 delegates; while the FISH linked to it currently has about 283 rooms on six floors. The Book of Government Budget Estimates for the years from April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2024, which Minister of Finance Neal Rijkenberg tabled in Parliament a couple of months back, alongside the Appropriation Bill, shows that the ICC&FISH is now projected to cost the country an estimated E6.4 billion. The money for the project began to escalate during the 2015/2016 financial year, when the estimated cost rose to E1.255 billion and the name of the Millennium Hotel changed to FISH. For that year, an amount of E412 million was budgeted for both the convention centre and the hotel.


The following year (2016/2017), the projected cost of the project increased to around E1.9 billion; an amount of E479 million was released for the payment of consultancy fees, professional fees and works. In 2017/2018, the project’s total estimated cost went up to E2 489 590 000; and an amount of E721 800 000 was released for payment of consultancy fees, works and purchasing of land for the ICC&FISH. In the financial year 2018/2019, the total estimated cost was hiked to E4.8 billion; with E522 million being released to pay for the ICC’s civil works, consultancy fees, furniture and fittings; and E989 million went to the FISH. 


Then, in the financial year 2019/2020, the estimated cost of the project was first maintained at E4.8 billion; with the ICC set to cost around E2.5 billion and the FISH at approximately E2.3 billion. A total of E1 235 880 000 was released for construction, consultancy fees, and payment of Value Added Tax (VAT) for the ICC. For the FISH, E634 million (E170 million and E464 million) was released for construction of the hotel, payment of land acquisition, construction fees, design and supervision, civil works and landscaping, and VAT. At the E4.8 billion cost, the ICC&FISH was already set to become the most expensive building on the entire African continent. The Ministry of Economic Planning and Development then revealed later that year, in its second quarter performance, that the project would cost E5 473 195 950.

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