SOUTH AFRICA – The Road Freight Association (RFA) is pushing for the private sector to be granted more control over failing state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

This follows the backlog taking place at SA’s ports due to a long history of deterioration of ports and rail in the country.

RFA executive officer Gavin Kelly said short-term plans, being put into place to ramp up operations, will not relieve the pressure on the entities.

“A long road lies ahead of South Africa in terms of bringing ports and rail infrastructure back to a position of efficiency,” said Kelly.

“We need the private sector to drive and control the nursing back to life of our vital supply chain infrastructure and nodal points.”

According to Kelly, the management of Transnet, and its subsidiaries, was fully aware of the problems.

“The RFA is steadfast in its opinion that the deterioration of our ports and rail has been a slow, continued process over at least 10 years, and Transnet has been continuously informed of these, by both structures within their respective organizations and the private sector,” Kelly said.

The state of South Africa’s ports has become staple fare in mainstream media, as South Africans learn much more about its functioning or lack of it.

Recently, according to Fresh Plaza, the Transnet Board chairperson said port congestion in South Africa was the result of what he euphemistically called “under-investment in equipment and its maintenance”.

Transnet recently shared the result of a special fraud investigation into breathalyzer straw procurement during 2020 that ended up costing them R33.8 million (USD 1.76 million).

Two executive managers came up with the plan to increase the price of each straw from 29c to R29.99 and the supplier readily agreed.

“Transnet, for most of the time in question under the stewardship of former CEO Brian Molefe, was responsible for a monstrous 81.59% of payments relating to State Capture: R40.08 billion [USD 2.08 billion],” Daily Maverick wrote in its reporting of the Zondo Commission that investigated the robbing of the state coffers during the reign of former president Jacob Zuma.

The ongoing slow performance at Transnet has caused significant disruptions to the South African economy. 

The agricultural sector has been particularly affected, with the negative impact of the strike on the fresh produce market potentially leading to massive job losses.

Agri SA President Jaco Minnaar expressed deep concern about the failing infrastructure and the current wage dispute at Transnet.

“Energy supply constraints are creating difficulty worldwide but nowhere more so than in South Africa. Farmers are struggling to produce and irrigate, to process and manufacture their products,” he said.

“In the long term, this will be detrimental not only to the farmers but also to food production, food supply, and food security. We welcome the plans of the President to get more energy generation capacity onto the grid.”

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