Free-falling elevator kills technician at CIO headquarters
HARARE – One person died, while another sustained serious injuries, when an elevator they were decommissioning at Chaminuka Building in Harare developed a fault and plunged from the 6th floor to the ground floor on Wednesday.
Chaminuka Building is the home of Zimbabwe’s notorious Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). The spy agency has allegedly been behind the abduction, torture and murder of hundreds of opposition activists over the years.
A Chinese firm, New View, was contracted to replace four elevators at the building by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing under controversial circumstances, amid reports that the company did not have capacity to do the job.
New View director Xuecheng Sao yesterday confirmed the death of one of his workers.
“We’re doing four elevators at Chaminuka and two which we started are now working and the other two were not working,” he said.
“We were now decommissioning the other two and the chain block holding the car failed and there were three people inside. One came out through the fourth floor and two landed on the ground floor. We rushed them to Parirenyatwa Hospital, but one died.”
Xuecheng said the other worker who landed on the ground floor survived after sustaining injuries on the ribs.
He said he had assisted the family of the deceased with transport and a coffin.
The elevator industry in Zimbabwe is dominated by three major players, Schindler, Eleco and Clovgate.
The Chaminuka Building tender required all bidders to attend a pre-tender site meeting, with non-attendance leading to disqualification.
New View allegedly did not attend the pre-tender meeting but was eventually declared the winner, much to the disgruntlement of indigenous companies that had submitted their bids.
It is alleged that a separate site meeting was conducted specifically for the Chinese firm, with no engineers from the ministry in attendance.
The tender was an informal one as it was below $500,000 and did not need to go through the State Procurement Board.
But Xuecheng yesterday said he won the tender because he was the cheapest bidder.
He acknowledged having missed the pre-tender site meeting.
“I came late and wasn’t there, but I later did the pre-tender site meeting myself and I cannot remember who was on the client side,” Xuecheng said.
“I checked everything on site and I won because I was the cheapest. I’ve the capacity to do the job and that’s not a problem at all.
“Our company is new and we started operations late in 2011, but I’ve done a lot of lifts on government buildings with no problems.”
It is alleged that New View depends on a technician based in Tanzania, but Xuecheng defended this awkward arrangment.
“This is someone I cooperate with. The challenge is with other bidders because I always win government tenders as I’m the cheapest. In this case, I was $70,000 cheaper than them.
“They’ve just found this accident as a scapegoat to say what they want.”
Local Government, Public Works and National Housing permanent secretary, Engineer George Mlilo, said he needed time to check how the tender was awarded.
“It might be possible (that the Ministry was involved in the adjudication process),” he said. “I’ve to check with my officials to see how the tender was awarded. But as for the accident, I’ve heard about it.”
Since the economy took a nose dive in 2008 the lives of thousands of Zimbabweans who use elevators have always been at risk because most of them have become death traps.
Elevators in most government offices have old hoist ropes and non-functional door sensors and metals bump into each other when doors close.
In 2010 a member of the public fell into an elevator pit during maintenance work and died.
In 1999 construction workers including a father and son lost their lives after an elevator malfunctioned and fell from the 15th floor during the construction of the Cabs Millenium Towers Building in Harare.