The United National Transport Union (UNTU) appeals to President Cyril Ramaphosa to instruct all law enforcement authorities to take decisive action to protect Transnet, one of the few financially viable state-owned enterprises in South Africa, from sabotage, vandalism, and criminality.
Steve Harris, General Secretary of UNTU, says Transnet had to endure numerous setbacks due to the inefficient support from other key role players over the past year which has hampered the goals of its Executives to restore Transnet to the leading rail and logistics entity in Africa.
In the latest blow today, the information technology systems of Transnet shut down after it has been allegedly hacked overnight in a cyberattack. Harris says Transnet sent out a statement to employees to explain it had to shut down some of its IT applications to identify the source of the problem. All operations had to continue using manual systems which results in delays. This comes despite Transnet going to great lengths to protect its internal systems from hackers.
Transnet issued a statement to announce it is not clear how soon the “disruption” would be cleared, but specialists are working around the clock to get systems up and running as soon as possible.
This incident comes while Transnet is slowly still recovering from what Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula described to British broadcast agency BBC as a “coup”, the vandalism and looting in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. The Minister admitted to the BBC that the South African Government “probably took longer than we were supposed to” to respond to the severe situation.
According to Harris Transnet reported that it had suffered a loss of more than R259 million due to the impact of the unrest at the Ports of Richardsbay and Durban. Transnet employees were unable to report for work due to the dangerous situation, road closures and fuel shortages. This resulted in a backlog in the moving of goods in and out of the ports.
“It is heart breaking that our ports and rail infrastructure, where employees have continued to place their lives in danger throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure that goods, foods and commodities reach its destinations and to keep the economy going, has been so severely impacted by the criminal conduct of a few lawless individuals,” says Harris.
Transnet also reported this week that despite all its efforts in arresting more than seven hundred (700) individuals for cable theft, there has been no decrease in the incidents it has to endure daily.
According to Harris cable theft is the biggest cause of delays in the on-time arrival of freight and passenger trains of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) in the country. It costs the South African economy between R5 billion and R7 billion per year and has increased to unprecedented levels since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.
UNTU once again appeals to President Cyril Ramaphosa and Police Minister Bheki Cele to explain to South African’s why there is an absence of adequate law enforcement in the transport sector, specifically in the rail, ports, trucks, and taxi environments.
“President Ramaphosa is failing in his duty to hold Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula accountable for the negative impact on the South African economy due to the ongoing disruptions in the various sectors of the transport industry,” says Harris.