The whiplash after more than a decade of State Capture in Transnet has now also caught up with the South African Ports.

Throughout this year Transnet alleged that “illegal strikes” by its employees where behind the delays in the Port without acknowledging the serious maintenance, procurement and performance appraisal issues that the United National Transport Union (UNTU) repeatedly warned them about.

Steve Harris, General Secretary of UNTU, says Transnet has not mentioned a word of the fact that the cranes in many of the Ports have exceeded their lifespan. The Ports are experiencing massive problems with the maintenance and the procurement of spares for the cranes.

“In July 2017 the #GuptaLeaks revealed that two heavy equipment manufacturers – Swiss-based Liebherr-International AG and China’s Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Limited – funnelled more than R100-million to the Guptas after Transnet awarded them contracts to supply cranes to South African ports.

“Since then Transnet has made no mention of these contracts or of any ongoing investigations about it, nor has anyone been arrested. UNTU does not know if the correct cranes were brought to suit the needs of the different Ports or if they were brought to suit the needs of the pockets of individuals,” says Harris.

In June 2016 it was reported that South Africa planned to invest around 48.4 billion rand ($3.2 billion) in capacity expansion at its major commercial ports over the next seven years to support a projected 4 % annual increase in cargo volumes over the period. Transnet then predicted that the capacity demand at the nine major ports will reach 314 million tons per year by 2022, up from 255 million tons per year in 2015. Transnet stated that it expected the figure to rise to 543 million tons per year by 2046.

Harris says although small expansion projects were undertaken, no major expansion projects were undertaken in the past four years. “The reality is that the design of most of our Ports leave much to be desired and needs improvement to increase productivity,” says Harris.

In 2010 Transnet paid R1,9 billion for the old Durban Airport. Former Transnet Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Brian Molefe informed the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises in June 2011 that the state-owned enterprise planned to develop the site into a maritime container port at an initial cost of R50 billion. The plan was to be dug out and equipped the site with 16 container berths, five automotive berths and four bulk liquid berths.

“In May this year Dr Popo Molefe used the airport as an example in his testimony in front of the Zondo Commission into state capture. He said that the construction at the site was to commence in 2020 but there was a “downturn” in the economy and Transnet itself had begun to experience a decline in volumes for exports. This resulted in a postponement.

“On visiting the site‚ while Siyabonga Gama was Transnet’s CEO‚ they found companies illegally occupying the land. According to Molefe the airport had been developed by the illegal occupants, there was no lease agreement and Transnet was not getting any money. Transnet has not briefed labour on the ongoing situation since,” says Harris.

It was also on the insistence of Transnet managers who has left the company under a cloud, that the performance appraisal of the container terminal environment was changed, creating a lot of unhappiness amongst employees.The changes influenced the monthly earnings of individuals. If you change what I earn, even if you can because I am not entitled to a performance bonus, you should expect an unstable and demoralised workforce.

“Now individuals adhere to the required speed restrictions by not exceeding the speed of 40 kilometres per hour and gets accused by Transnet of being on a go-slow. The truth is that no members of UNTU were involved in any illegal actions. The problems in the Ports is attributed to Transnet history catching up with the state-owned enterprise,” says Harris.

For more information phone Harris on 082 566 5516 or Sonja Carstens, UNTU Deputy-General Secretary: Media, Liaison and Communication.

Issued on behalf of UNTU by Sonja Carstens, Deputy-General Secretary responsible for Media, Liaison and Communication. For UNTU Press Releases phone Sonja at 082 463 6806.

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