Greater, meaningful exposure of black people to country’s water spaces pivotal to maritime sector’s enhanced economic development: SA Sailing

Pretoria: 29 October 2021

South Africa’s global status as a maritime country, the 24th largest in the world, 9th biggest in Africa and one of 38 coastal in the continent, characterised by a land area of some 1,2-million km2 and around about two thirds of which sits three oceans featuring a water space of some 1,5-million km2 of an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), will continue to underperform economically until such time that the majority of its people, mostly black, are fully exposed and absorbed into the maritime sector.

That was one view that emerged among some stakeholders in the country’s maritime sector during launch of the Department of the Transport’s Inland Water Strategy at the Vaal River on Friday, 22 October 2021.

According to the DoT on the day, the Inland Water Strategy was launched with a view to address a litany of challenges related to lack of proper management of dams and rivers that make up about 4,620 km2 of the country’s inland water area. As of 2017, according to a report citing the Department of Water and Sanitation, “…of thousands of dams, 7 115 were registered as having a safety risk, and 324 are government reservoirs under the custodianship of the DWS, which represents 85% of the volume of water of the inland waters.

Concerning transport and boating activity in particular, involving an estimated 1.5-million vessels, the DoT said a key feature of the Inland Water Strategy was the National Small Vessels Safety Regulations 2007 incorporated into the Merchant Shipping Act 1951 (as amended) and whose intention was to implement and enhance safety of boating activities on inland waters as well as prevent pollution. The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) is responsible for implementing the NSVS regulations.

“The strategy aims to find the right balance between an emphasis on education and encouraging personal responsibility and the need for the implementation of the NSVS Regulations in a manner of co-operative governance and other measures for an effective inland waterway safety regime, said DoT.

Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga, Deputy Minister of Transport

At the Lake Deneys Yacht Club on Friday, however, after all the formalities related to the launch had taken place, the host and guests took a few minutes to chat about some of the challenges facing the country’s maritime/marine sector in general and inland water resources in particular from an economic development perspective.

From a national government viewpoint, as represented by Deputy Minister of Transport, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga, it emerged that there was ongoing concern about the low to poor levels of especially economic investment at the country’s inland water locations, which in turn limited both careers development as well as creating employment opportunities for South Africa’s young people.

“What is to be done? was the question, which elicited a few responses.

Far more forceful among these was that historical and continuing lack of exposure of the country’s majority black population was among the chief impediments, or so argued SA Sailing.

From the organisation’s perspective, those already priviledged with access to the country’s inland water spaces, such as yatching and boating clubs needed to roll up their sleeves and get working towards exposing young black chidren to the country’s waters, said SA Sailing Counselor for Transformation and Development, Mr Lindani Mchunu, supported by the organisation’s deputy President, Mr Vernon Brown.

This blog captured part of the conversation on the topic as reproduced in the video below (duration: +-14 minutes.

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