’If Transnet did not endure a decade of state capture, corruption and mismanagement, the Port of Durban would still be known as the food basket for Africa and the country would have made enormous strides in alleviating poverty,’ said United National Transport Union secretary general Steve Harris. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)
’If Transnet did not endure a decade of state capture, corruption and mismanagement, the Port of Durban would still be known as the food basket for Africa and the country would have made enormous strides in alleviating poverty,’ said United National Transport Union secretary general Steve Harris. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

Privatisation of port operations will not solve problems, says transport union

By Edward West Time of article published Apr 28, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - TRANSNET’S problems of long turnaround times, truck congestion, and ship berthing delays and anchorage times would not be solved by privatisation as these issues were caused by employees not having the right tools, the United National Transport Union said on Monday.

“If Transnet did not endure a decade of state capture, corruption and mismanagement, the Port of Durban would still be known as the food basket for Africa and the country would have made enormous strides in alleviating poverty,” said Untu secretary general Steve Harris.

Instead of ensuring those responsible for state capture were held accountable, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan looked to privatisation of divisions of the state-owned enterprises as solutions, but that would result in the loss of thousands of jobs, Harris said.

During a visit to the Port of Durban earlier this month, President Cyril Ramaphosa said partnerships with the private sector were necessary to bring new investment, technology and expertise to port operations and to modernise equipment and infrastructure.

Transnet planned to advertise a concession later this year to build and operate the new Point Terminal, which would “bring in private investment and improve the efficiency of container handling”, Ramaphosa said.

Harris said the poor state of Transnet’s equipment in the container terminal in the Port of Port Elizabeth have been brought to the union’s attention.

“This is the very same equipment that is expected to handle millions of tons of cargo during the reefer season, the busiest time of the year for Transnet,” he said.

“One cannot expect Transnet employees to increase volumes and performance when the equipment is failing them.”

Harris said two mobile harbour cranes, which Transnet bought in April last year for R80 million, could move only five containers an hour whereas the ship-to-shore cranes could move 23 containers an hour.

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