Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit to port of Durban met with protests opposed to privatisation
DURBAN - President Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit to the port of Durban, Africa’s busiest and largest, was met with pickets by members of Satawu (South African Transport and Allied Workers Union) who voiced fears that the port would be privatised.
Ramaphosa, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan were in the port to assess its efficiency after reports of congestion and delays in clearing cargo.
Instead of welcoming Ramaphosa on Thursday morning, members of Satawu staged a surprise picket.
The placard-waving and slogan-chanting members alleged that should the plan to privatise the port go ahead, thousands of jobs would be lost and workers pensions would be swallowed by the private owners.
The fear stemmed from an unverified document which started circulating three weeks ago and alleged that Transnet’s decision to move its ports division headquarters from Durban to Ngqura in the Eastern Cape was a precursor for privatising the port.
Speaking to the media outside the port, Satawu’s leader in KZN, Anele Kiti, said its members wanted Ramaphosa to know that they would never allow the privatisation.
“The first thing is that we want to send a message to the president of the country that he is the president of the workers, workers are worried that this port is going be privatised and we know, history has taught us that when privatisation takes place it opens for corruption and workers cannot be affected with that.
“We know workers have their pensions that are going to be used to subsidise companies that are going to buy the very same port and with that privatisation individuals stand to benefit in the (sic) expense of the workers. We all know that companies that are private the first thing that they want to do is to maximise profits and in doing so they shed jobs,” Kiti said.
Port of Durban | Satawu protest outside harbour, calling for it not to be privatised https://t.co/0UTI2GYbne— ChangeSA (@SouthAfricansP1) April 15, 2021
He added that the port should always be government controlled and it should invest money in order to make it efficient, sustainable and create more jobs.
“South Africa cannot afford to lose (retrench) even one worker at this port,” he said, adding that as a union they were only consulted once about the plan to relocate to Ngqura.
Speaking before Ramaphosa’s arrival, KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala, who was also taking part in the tour, said they would use the opportunity to lobby Ramaphosa and tell him that they don’t want the headquarters to be moved to the Eastern Cape. Zikalala said such a move would defeat the government's stated goal of making Durban a future and globally competitive shipping hub.