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Satawu plans mass protest at Transnet

People are silhouetted behind a red Satawu banner.

The SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) is planning a protest at Transnet this week. File Picture: Independent Newspapers.

Published Oct 30, 2023


Durban - The SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) is planning a nationwide protest over the potential privatisation of Transnet, including the development and upgrades at a major Durban container terminal.

Marches are scheduled to take place in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape, and at other Transnet depots, with the main march taking place in Durban.

Satawu said they would march to Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube’s office and the Department of Public Enterprises to hand over a memorandum.

Transnet issued a statement yesterday saying it viewed the planned action as ‘unprotected’ and that contingency plans have been put in place if Satawu’s leadership proceed.

In July, Transnet announced Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services Inc (Ictsi) as the preferred bidder for the 25-year joint venture with Transnet Port Terminals to develop and upgrade the Durban Container Terminal Pier 2.

At the time Satawu and the United National Transport Union accused Transnet of bringing in the company before concluding labour consultations, and expressed fears that this could lead to major job losses.

Pier 2 is Transnet’s biggest container terminal, handling 72% of the Port of Durban’s throughput and 46% of South Africa’s port traffic.

Last month, Transnet Group CEO Portia Derby, who announced the privatesector partner deal, resigned along with group chief financial officer, Nonkululeko Dlamini, and Transnet Freight Rail CEO Siza Mzimela

Transnet recently reported a loss of R5.7 billion in 2022-23 and a drop of 23.6 million tons in rail freight, down to 149.5 million tons.

Satawu deputy secretary-general Anele Kiet said a national protest was planned for November 3 against the impending partial privatisation of Transnet.

He said the main march would take place in Durban, with a protest at the port that would “affect Transnet operations to make as big an impact as possible”, and came after nearly two years of discussions with the parastatal over privatisation at ports.

“We have tried to consult with Transnet but they are not taking us seriously, and there is no engagement to try to put unions at ease over the issue of job shedding. We have made proposals to them to help turn around the situation, but they believe the only solution is to privatise the entity.”

Kiet said the deal with Ictsi did not clarify how many jobs would be saved and how it would improve the infrastructure at the port.

“We have engaged with Transnet on how privatisation could work to benefit infrastructure and the economy, but these have been ignored,” Kiet said, with the union drawing on international examples of a best-fit system for privatisation. He said Transnet management were “hell-bent on concluding deals to get bonuses”.