The National Union of Mineworkers (Numsa) says moving Transnet’s head office to the Eastern Cape will effectively render the Durban port useless. This, despite President Cyril Ramaphosa’s vow to position Durban “as a world-class port and as a hub port for the Southern Hemisphere.”
In his latest newsletter, Ramaphosa says the new Transnet management has ambitious and exciting expansion plans for all five of the Durban port’s precincts. This is set to require more than R100 billion in new investment over the next decade.
This, the president believes, will completely transform the port, expanding its capacity for container handling from 2.9 million units to more than 11 million units.
He writes, “If the port does not function efficiently, the entire economy suffers, from importers and exporters to consumers.
“On the other hand, if the port works well, it can drive economic growth and position our country as a gateway to the region and the continent.”
According to Ramaphosa, the Durban port has, in recent years, slipped from its position as first in Africa to third, behind Tangier in Morocco and Port Said in Egypt. Last week, the president concluded an oversight visit to the port.
Push-back from unions
Meanwhile organised labour says Ramaphosa excluded them from his consultations with the private sector over the Durban port.
Speaking to the SABC, Numsa’s KwaZulu-Natal secretary, Mbuso Ngubane, says government will hamstring the Durban harbour.
Ngubane says they are worried and don’t understand the strategy of relocating HQ and relocating some of the container terminals to the Eastern Cape. These plans were announced earlier this year as part of “ongoing cost-saving and efficiency initiatives”.
“Their intention is to make this harbour useless, so that by the end of the day they can privatise it.”
Ngubane adds, “We think that what they are doing is actually against what you could call a market demand strategy which was adopted by Parliament which also emphasises two things.
“One is the size of job creation. Two is the rehabilitation of the infrastructure in this harbour. But the new strategy that is being implemented, we are not clear where was that strategy adopted and what is it that strategy entails.”
Agbiz chief economist Wandile Sihlobo says, “The industry has been working closely with the government and other stakeholders, such as Transnet, to smooth the flow at the ports.
“There is ongoing work at Transnet to decongest the Durban port. The multi-stakeholder cooperation was key to enabling higher export volumes during a pandemic.”