The staging of this year’s World Maritime Day celebrations at the Wild Coast town of Port St Johns in the O.R Tambo District Municipality of the Eastern Cape province, by some accounts, arguably proved its worth beyond the simple recognition of the region as among South Africa’s undeserving highly underdeveloped areas, yet with direct access to 800 km of ocean space.
By design, the event on Wednesday (27 September), the first of two days of celebration, provided an opportunity for the AmaMpondo clan to also formally commemorate the 100th year of the sinking of the S.S Mendi – a 4000 ton British steamship that perished off the English Channel in 1917 along with just over 600 black South Africans soldiers, and dozens of whom were from the O.R Tambo District Municipality.
According to historical record, among those who perished during the sinking of SS Mendi were AmaMpondo chiefs Hendry Bokleni, Dokoda, Richard Ndamase, Mxonywa Bangani and Mongameli, and the Reverend Isaac Wauchope Dyobha.
The O.R Tambo district municipality settled along the Eastern Cape’s coastline is named after one of South Africa’s most famous liberation struggle icons and former president of the African National Congress, the late Mr Oliver Reginald Tambo who – along with Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the former wife of Nelson Mandela – was born in Mbizana and whose political contribution to the country’s liberation is also being celebrated in the country throughout 2017.
At last Wednesday’s World Maritime Day event staged at Port St Johns’ golf course, in a uniquely refreshing, educational and entertainingly fun way, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) through its Maritime Heritage project, brought to life the tragic sinking of the S.S Mendi a century ago this year via a docu-drama film – Troopship Tragedy – that was presented by its creator, researcher and narrator; Mr Mzwanele ‘Zwai’ Mgijima of Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape.
The almost hour long movie’s production in 2015 was directed by Marion Edmunds.
For his very presence at the event, Mr Mgijima, a stage actor and storyteller who, during production of the film, traveled from the rural O. R Tambo District Municipality area to England to find the sunken S.S Mendi and bring back to South Africa the spirits of the SA Native Labour Contingent’s members who perished therein, was as much a source of amazement and delight for the approximately 500 school learners and teachers at the event as was the film presentation itself.
The World Maritime Day event, an annual celebration driven by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) was staged in Port St Johns this year through a collaborative effort involving government departments including Transport, Tourism, Basic Education, the Eastern Cape Provincial Government and SAMSA; to also observe the centenaries of the sinking of the S.S Mendi, and O.R Tambo’s birth (were he alive this year).
The inclusion of a maritime heritage aspect followed to last year’s very successful inauguration of the SAMSA Maritime Heritage Project during the 38th World Maritime Day celebrations held at the Xhariep Dam in the Free State, in collaboration with the South African National Heritage Council.
Remarking during last Thursday’s event, Mr Mgijima said: “I hastened to say yes to the invitation because I was going to interact with learners from local schools when watching the film, the SS Mendi Troopship Tragedy”.
“To me”, he said, “this was knowledge dissemination in real time as the film was researched and shot in Pondoland. That, for me, was like going back to the source!
“What humbled me most,” said Mr Mgijima, “was the fact that a group of learners and their teachers came back with their lunch packs to watch the film: they never touched their food while watching it!”
“’I teach them about the Mendi – their forgotten history’ a voice from their teacher.
“It was all silent during the viewing of the film. A dream realized by me that the history has been told through water and land,” concluded Mr Mgijima.
*The South African Maritime Safety Authority has a copy of the movie for its archives.
The development of South Africa’s maritime sector is now formally in full swing under the banner of the Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) initiative, with billions of rand of State funds currently being invested in particularly ports and related infrastructure.
However, now absolutely crucial is a need to ensure that all South Africans are on board and involved, and central to strategy is a need to both broaden and entrench fully education and skills development of especially the young, Minister of Transport, Mr Joe Masangwanyi told hundreds of people – among them 400 high school children – attending this year’s World Maritime Day celebrations held in Port St Johns, Eastern Cape.
Port St Johns, a little town settled in a picturesque area of South Africa’s Wild Coast along the Indian Ocean, midway between East London and Durban, was chosen by the Department of Transport for this year’s observation of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) driven World Maritime Day on September 28 for a number of reasons.
Among these is that the town symbolizes one of the most under-developed areas of South Africa settled along the country’s 3200 km long coastline. It used to fall under the jurisdiction of the former Transkei homeland or Bantustan whose development was simply ignored by the apartheid government.
The town is now among coastal areas of the country earmarked earlier this year as part of a coastal and marine tourism initiative for a rapid development plan over five years beginning in 2017.
Port St Johns also falls under the O.R Tambo District Municipality which is home to former African National Congress president, Mr Oliver Reginald Tambo whose contribution to the country’s liberation struggle is being celebrated in 2017.
The World Maritime Day event held in the town on Thursday (28 September) was the second of its kind with an international maritime theme to be held in the region, the first having been the international Seafarers’ Day held in Mbizana in June.
Also preceding the event were a number of marine skills and related project targeting close on 300 youths from the region since June this year.
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) driven initiatives included a Maritime Youth Development Programme (MYDP) for youths keen on working on cruise vessels; a Corporate Social Investment Youth Skills project for youths keen on sea diving, life-guarding and related), a Coastal and Marine Tourism initiative aimed at facilitating infrastructure development and enhancement, job creation and entrepreneurship.
At Thursday’s event, Mr Masangwanyi said these maritime sector related initiatives were a clear indication of Government’s expressed commitment to driving new investment into areas that are both underdeveloped and with great potential to contribute to the country’s economy through business investment and job creation.
According to Mr Masangwanyi, there is no longer a reason why populations of people living in the country’s coastal provinces (Northern Cape, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal) should not be in the lead in the development of the country’s maritime economic sector.
Infrastructure development, education and skills development would be the key drivers for investment; he said.
“Government has identified the maritime sector as an important sector of the country’s economy
“Various ports across the country are receiving billions of rand in investment to enhance their capacity – facts of which will be fully revealed when President Jacob Zuma reports to the nation about the progress of Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) in Durban next month.
“We are not going to leave behind Port St Johns. Among highlights of projects in the area is the expansion of the N2 and which will formally link the town of Port St Johns to increased road traffic between the major cities of East London and Durban. As much as R8-billion is being invested in the Wild Coast road construction project.
“The cabinet has approved the comprehensive maritime transport policy, it provides further opportunity for investment in the country’s maritime transport sector.
“This welcome development indicates that as a country, we cannot remain consumers of maritime services of other countries while we have such coastal heritage.
“Gone are the days when our people are consumers. Now is the time that our people should also contribute to productions of services. Gone are the days when our oceans are dominated by big shipping companies from Europe, America and Asia. Now is the time that vessels should be owned and operated by South Africans and in the main, Africans.
“Through the maritime transport and manufacturing projects we will create between 40-56 000 job opportunities, whereby our people will be involved in maritime construction, telecommunication technologies and equipment manufacturing. These will contribute between R21-25-billion to the economy of South Africa. In order achieve these goals within the set timeframes, it cannot be business as usual,” he said.
To listen to his full speech (about 20 minutes) Click on the video below.
Marine tourism but precisely the cruise ships tourism subsector is set for a major boost in South Africa with the setting up of a sea cruise business partnership involving shipping group, Vukani Marine and an international operator, in Port Elizabeth.
An immediate positive impact would be the creation of much needed jobs on cruise ships for local youth, revealed Mr Sobantu Tilayi, chief operating officer at the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in East London on Friday.
Mr Tilayi was speaking during the formal launch of a Maritime Youth Development Programme (MYDP) for the province – a joint youth empowerment initiative between the Office of the Premier of the Eastern Cape, national multi-stakeholder youth empowerment outfit, Harambee; and SAMSA.
At its official launch at the port of East London on Friday, the Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) linked project involved about 130 youths from the province who will undergo training in maritime related skills for possible deployment initially on cruise liners around the world.
This is the first marine tourism related initiative of its kind focused on the Eastern Cape Province, with the first batch of about 50 youths likely to be deployed as early as September this year.
Shipping group Vuka Marine is a joint venture between Via Maritime Holdings of South Africa and K-Line of Japan. It is the first shipping group to have its cargo vessels registered under the South African flag – the first of these, the Cape Orchid, flagged in September 2015.
Addressing the group of youths ahead of the start of their training programme in the next few weeks, Mr Tilayi, in the company of Eastern Cape Premier, Mr Phumulo Masaulle and some provincial senior government officials, Mayors and councilors of the Buffalo City and Port St Johns municipalities and others, said Vuka Marine in partnership with a Hong Kong based cruise ships operator, were planning the establishment of a training and jobs placement operation in Port Elizabeth.
The unnamed Vukani Marine partner according to Mr Tilayi, operates about 720 cruise liners mostly in the Caribbean, with a total crew of about 44 000 people.
“They are setting up in Port Elizabeth so that we (South Africa) can have a slice of those job opportunities,” said Mr Tilayi, adding that one of the attractions that were drawing the initiative to South Africa was the country people’s versatility borne of the diversity of the domestic population.
He said South Africans generally spoke English which was the universal maritime language, and that South Africans generally interacted and therefore were more familiar with people of different ethnic groups – a characteristic also deemed as highly important in the maritime transport sector.
“That is the reason why the world is looking at South Africa producing the kind of people needed in that sector, “ he said.
He urged the youths to grab the opportunities emerging with both hands and work hard to profit from them not only for themselves but for the rest of the country.
For Mr Tilayi’s full remarks on the matter, Click Here.
Never should the Eastern Cape remain the backyard of South Africa’s economy
Meanwhile, the Eastern Cape provincial government applauded both SAMSA, Harambee and others involved in the Maritime Youth Development Programme initiative for the province.
In welcoming the initiative, Premier Masaulle described it as an anomaly that the Eastern Cape province endowed with the second longest coastline in the country along the Indian Ocean – about 800km in total – yet benefited far less from its exposure to a maritime economy.
With emerging opportunities he said, it would be consistent with the province’s historical role of supplying labour to industries that its people should again emerge dominant in the further development of the country’s maritime economic sector.
Mr Masaulle urged the youth to set their aims high with a view to filling up and occupying any and all ranks available in the sector.
For his full remarks on the aspect, Click on the video above.
For more audio-visual coverage of the event, go to the Multi-Media page and click either on Photos, or Audio & Video, or otherwise, Click Here.
With more than 150 million tons of plastic material floating across the world’s oceans – and likely to rise to 950mt in 30 years – and with very little being done about it, the world is facing an imminent ecological disaster, scientists told delegates at a conference on marine waste currently underway in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa.
The African Marine Waste Conference 2017 began on Monday with about 200 delegates and will end Friday, with its main aim being to encourage development of concrete plans to turn the tide on plastic and related waste being dumped willy-nilly by nations bordering the continent’s coastline.
Dr Linda Godfrey, a manager of the Waste RDI Roadmap Implementation Unit at the Centre for Science and Industrial Research (CSRI) in South Africa, one of the early speakers on Monday, painted a disturbing picture of particularly the African continent with regards both its current status on waste management as well as imminent future challenges that could make the task of eliminating plastic waste more difficult if not arrested effectively, soon.
She said the continent was largely characterized by poor landfill practices, general poor waste management, uncontrolled dumping compounded by a rapidly growing population of middle income people who were increasingly migrating to predominantly coastal cities.
“Africa is at a watershed, in that if we do not stop and take action now, we are going to be faced with a massive marine waste problem locally, regionally and the potential impact globally. And there are essentially seven reasons that I see for why we should take action now,” she said. For Dr Godfrey’s full remarks (lasting about 4.30 minutes) Click Here.
For her full conference presentation in audio only, Click Here.
There is no such thing as waste. We know enough!
Dr Godfrey’s presentation correlated with that by United States scientist, Dr Sylvia Earle, a multi science awards winner and founder of Mission Blue as well as a National Geographic Explorer in Residence.
Plastic waste was not necessarily disastrous and instead a great economic opportunity if it was managed effectively through recycling, said Dr Earle.
She said lack of knowledge about the effects of plastic waste dumping particularly in the oceans was no longer an excuse as its effects were now fully understood.
“Most of the oxygen that we breathe is generated by the oceans. Ocean creatures take up carbon dioxide, a carbon dioxide that is important for photosynthesis generating food.
“But too much of a good thing is not only harming the oceans, by making the oceans more acidic, by warming the planet. The carbon dioxide and other gasses such as methane are accelerating the warming of the earth, causing polar ice to melt, changing the climate, changing the weather, changing the one place in the universe that is our home, the only home that humankind – seven billion of us – will ever have.”
She said the conference currently underway in Port Elizabeth was a good opportunity to not only share the knowledge at hand about the effects of plastic waste in the oceans but to also explore creative solutions necessary to effectively manage waste.
For her full remarks (about 4 minutes), please Click Here.
Operation Phakisa (“Waste Economy” ) on the cards for South Africa!
Meanwhile, it emerged that South African authorities were not only looking at increasing plastic waste management practices soiling its own three oceans characterized by 3200km of a coastline and some 1.5-million square kilometers of an Exclusive Economic Zone but also it intended taking full economic advantage of it.
Dr André Share, head of the Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) in the Department of Environmental Affairs revealed that an Operation Phakisa Waste Management initiative in the offing and would be rolled out soon.
“Very soon, we will have a Waste Phakisa, and there we will unpack not only what we are doing with the waste, but also looking at how we turn this waste into opportunities and look at the whole secular economy in respect of waste.”
Dr Share in an opening speech delivered on behalf of the Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, said the launch of the Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) initiative three years ago was incrementally showing positive returns in terms of investment in both ports infrastructure and related private sector investments in a whole range of projects across the country’s coastline.
“However, these developments, and indeed coastal development in general must be balanced with a need to ensure the health and integrity of our coastal and oceanic resources.
“Our oceans are under threat from pollution both from land based activities and sea based activities.
“The entire oceanic ecosystem is exposed to a wide range of pollution sources, such as illegal dumping practices, spillages from ships, waste disposal from port dredging operations to mining operations, and the discharge of sewage and storm water agricultural run-off and litter from land based sources.”
This he said, was despite the existence of stringent rules and regulations for all of the pollutants finding their way into the seas.
Dr Share said a sectoral approach was necessary to find a way to manage the waste streams and a “waste Phakisa” was on the cards to address the issue.
We are here to learn: Indonesia government official
The Port Elizabeth 2017 conference has attracted attention from several countries across the world, with representations from both Africa, Oceana, the US as well as European countries including Norway.
Indonesia deputy Minister for the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Dr Satri Burhanuddin said his country delegation was attending the conference to learn about what solutions Africa might come up with that would be useful in his country for implementation.
“Africa is more like Indonesia. The middle class is growing and growing and so we actually face the same problem. So we want to learn also how Africa faces this problem.”
For Dr Burhanuddin’s remarks (about 2 minutes) Click Here
An immense economic contribution made by a ‘handful’ of seafarers in enabling seamless operations in global trade and the general world economy continues to enjoy less public recognition than it should, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).
The apparent concern emerged at the weekend as South Africa joined the rest of the world in marking the annual international Day of the Seafarer that fell on Sunday (June 25) in recognition of the group of sailors estimated at about 1.5-million worldwide.
The country’s event arranged through the Department of Transport and SAMSA and themed #SeafarersMatter, was staged at the Nomlacu village of Mbizana, some 65 kilometers inland northwest of the Indian Ocean, in the eastern region of the Eastern Cape Province.
Addressing about 700 guests, among them some 400 high school children bussed in from a number of schools in the district, as well as about half-a-dozen seafarers based in the port city of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal; Mr Sobantu Tilayi, Chief Operating Officer of SAMSA said seafarers worldwide just did not seem to garner any public recognition for their massive contribution into global trade and economic development generally.
And this was despite the 25th day of June having been marked by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as a day of global recognition for seafarers since seven years ago.
The purpose, according to the IMO, is to “recognize the unique contribution made by seafarers all over the world to international seaborne trade, the world economy and civil society as a whole.”
On Sunday, Mr Tilayi said: “I have argued that seafarers are the most under-celebrated careers, second to teachers. They are the most under-celebrated careers yet these people enable us to live life as we now know it.”
Addressing himself mostly to the youth present, Mr Tilayi outlined the nature and history of the South Africa’s maritime sector, the various careers currently available to choose from, as well as related socio-economic matters.
Mr Tilayi also explained the reasoning behind the staging of the otherwise seashore oriented activity in an inland rural location.
He described it as both about extending awareness of maritime sector careers to all South Africans regardless of location, but also to honour the birthplace of former African National Congress (ANC) president, Mr Oliver, Reginald Tambo in line with the country’s current year-long celebration of the liberation struggle stalwart.
For an edited version of Mr Tilayi’s 30 minutes address (it lasts about six minutes!) please Click Here
A lecture on O.R Tambo was delivered by one of his fellow UMkhonto WeSizwe (ANC’s armed struggle wing), General Zolile Nqose
Sailors nod for enhanced maritime careers awareness campaign
Meanwhile, half-a-dozen South African seafarers who attended the event were most impressed with the choice of this year’s Day of the Seafarer event at Mbizana, as in their view, sought to ensure that all youths in South Africa got real time exposure to maritime sector careers from professionals in the field they could easily identify with.
This blog, The10th Provincespoke to two of them, Mr Mnqobi Msane and Miss Sthabile Khambule, and below are clips of their views on this and related matters.
Education authority excited about his region’s involvement in maritime sector developments
This blog also solicited the views of a local senior provincial education official about his impression of the event held on Sunday. Mr Vuyani Mathwasa, said he was most impressed by the progressive moves towards incorporating his district along the Indian Ocean into the country’s Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) program.
Port St Johns and adjacent areas along the Eastern Cape’s coastline – the country’s second longest by province – would soon see skills development as well as beach and small vessel harbour infrastructure either installed or upgraded, he said.
To listen to Mr Matshwasa, Chief Education Specialist for the O.R Tambo Ocean District region, Click Here
Meanwhile at the weekend, the IMO also issued video message on the Day of the Seafarer 2017 event, which was also shared in full at the South African event in Mbizana.
The Eastern Cape, South Africa’s 2nd largest province by coastline along the Indian Ocean, will be the venue for this year’s local celebrations of the international Seafarers Day on Sunday, June 25.
The Department of Transport (DoT) together with the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) have confirmed that the annual event focused on the crucial role seafarers worldwide play in the management of seagoing transport, will be staged at Mbizana in the Eastern Cape, this partly to also honor the country’s current year-long celebrations of the O.R Tambo centennial.
Driven by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) together with partner countries including South Africa, this year’s Seafarers Day celebration theme is; “#SeafarersMatter” .
According to the IMO, the theme is intended as a campaign to engage people responsible for the world’s ports and seafarer centres to “demonstrate how much seafarers matter to them by featuring great initiatives that support and promote seafarer welfare.
“These efforts”, says the IMO; “are presented on a new virtual world map, which showcases best practices and helps celebrate seafarers.”
In South Africa, the DoT and SAMSA together with the Eastern Cape provincial government will use the event to not only celebrate seafarers worldwide to spread greater public awareness both about the country’s maritime economic sector, as well as awareness about the role of seafarers in that space, but will also seek to connect with communities in the eastern part of the Eastern Cape with a view to establishing community projects to enhance people’s skills for meaningful participation in the sector of the economy.
Towards this end, the parties will launch a series of maritime sector skills development initiatives including the training of about 150 youths in the Port St Johns, Mbizana and adjacent towns in deep sea diving, sea rescue and related skills.
The programme will also see others receive training in basic seafarer skills that will allow them to be placed on cruise vessels around the world.
The Seafers’ Day celebrations at Mbizana are scheduled to also feature a dozen or so sailors from South Africa including cadets currently undergoing training under the country national cadets development programme.
According to the programme for Sunday, aspects of the country’s maritime heritage as well marine and coastal tourism will also feature as some of the components of Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) ocean growth project.
Tributes will also be made to former African National Congress president, the late Oliver Reginald Tambo in whose area of birth the Seafarers Day celebrations will be held at the weekend.
Meanwhile, it was also formally confirmed this week that South Africa will be the host venue for the IMO’s 2020 World Maritime Day Conference by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Assembly in 2020.
Eastern Cape steals national limelight on progress of South Africa maritime economic sector development
Port Elizabeth: 08 April 2016
The Eastern Cape province asserted its lead in the stakes for the country’s maritime economic sector revival when Government used the region on Friday (08 April 2016) as the host of the country’s inaugural national progress report on the implementation of Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy).
Flanked by no less than five Cabinet Ministers along with some Members of Parliament, representatives of the Eastern Cape provincial government led by their Premier, and Nelson Mandela Metro local government council led by its Mayor; President Jacob Zuma used the port of Port Elizabeth on Friday to give a most comprehensive and first formal public report of progress achieved to date since launch of the Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) program in 2014.
Even as dire the current economic conditions, Mr Zuma sounded highly optimistic but especially about the both the progress being achieved as well as its positive outcomes in the not so distant future.
South Africa’s economic growth is predicted likely to grow by no more than a percentage point in 2016, or less; due to factors emanating from both internally and globally, and that recovery may be a year or three away.
However, while this might point to a gloomy economic picture in the short term, it was no reason for pessimism in the medium to long term as the situation also presented a golden opportunity for investment in sectors lacking concentration, among them the country’s maritime economic sector, long neglected until about half a decade ago.
Prior to his taking the podium almost two hours later than scheduled at the eleventh hour, under a mega marquee that housed as many as 10 000 people, erected at length east to west to counter the notorious PE wind, and yet barely 20 meters from the seashore in the industrial area of the port of Port Elizabeth dominated by the dusty mounds of manganese ore and a foul smell of kerosene from megaliter storage tanks of liquid fuel – a set of features of the port long at issue will local residents and business – the Cabinet Ministers, Directors-General, and some leaders of State Owned Enterprises in his tow; sought to unpack the story from early morning.
In the lead under the blinding lights of national television cameras was Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe; followed in no particular order by fellow Cabinet Ministers that included Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa; Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Mr Senzeni Zokwana; Minister of Public Enterprises, Ms Lynne Brown as well deputy Minister of Transport, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga, and who were ably assisted by Eastern Cape Premier, Phumulo Masaulle as well as the Mandela Bay metro council leader, Dr Danny Jordaan.
Theirs was largely confined to a national television audience hosted by SABC2 Breakfast Show anchored by Leanne Mannas, thereafter by the SABC News Channel boxed in the pay television network, DStv, the latter which also carried live the President’s report from lunch-time.
Prior to Mr Zuma’s main delivery of the Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) progress report, the Government delegation led by Transnet officials at the National Ports Authority were taken on a tour of the harbour for a view of various new upgrades and particular infrastructure developed to expand business investment opportunities in the maritime economic sector in the region.
These included a new jetty slipway, as well as a new 90 ton boat hoist for boat repairers said to be only the second of its kind in the country. The entourage also boarded and toured a new a multi-million rand worth tug named Tug Mvezo, delivered from Durban only a few days earlier. The tug is named after the village near Mthatha recognized internationally for being home to global statesman, South Africa’s first president under the democratic dispensation, Nelson Mandela.
With the inspection and tours having taken longer than anticipated, Mr Zuma finally arrived at the mega marquees to a thunderous applause of song and dance from a crowd of people officially said to have touched the 10 000 people mark, and rendered rather most colourful by the dominant yellow, green and black colour attire made up of ANC T-shirts with a mixture of ANC leaders’ faces including Mr Zuma.
It was not inconsistent.
The Port Elizabeth metro (encompassing Uitenhage, the seat of German carmaker, Volkswagen; and nearby Dispatch, a town in between) is named after Nelson Mandela and its Main Street is now known as Govan Mbeki – in honour of one of the stalwarts of the black liberation struggle, and father to Mr Mandela’s successor as country president; Mr Thabo Mbeki.
The audience for Mr Zuma on Friday also varied by age, from the youngest – several below the age of 10 years old and some of whom momentarily lost contact with their minders – to the reasonably old; and a number of whom also occasionally dozed off in the contained steamy heat of the sun and sea made no less uncomfortable by the indifferently tight walls of the giant marquees.
With children losing contact with their minders in a decidedly irritating frequency, Programme Director, Mr Mlibo Qhoboshiyane – a member of the Eastern Cape provincial government responsible for Local Government and Traditional Affairs; at one point threatened to have ‘locked up’ any parent whose child was found to have lost contact with – to the applause of the audience.
In his speech, Mr Zuma said Government was relatively pleased with the progress being achieved under the Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) program, but especially the Maritime Transport and Manufacturing lab, as earmarked infrastructure development involving significantly billions of rand of Government investment was gathering speed across ports in the country, from Saldanha Bay at the far western end of the Western Cape Province to Durban in KwaZulu-Natal.
But crucially he said; was the need for speed in the creation of job opportunities and alongside which was a programme for education, training and skills development for many aspirant maritime economic sector career seekers.
With regards the latter, Mr Zuma pointed to two recent significant developments; the enrolment for the first time ever of two public high schools in the Eastern Cape – the George Randall and Ngwenyathi High Schools in East London – for delivery of maritime economic sector education curriculum, and which was preceded two years earlier by the establishment of the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) to focus on education, training and skills development as well as academic research into the sector.
Aptly, SAIMI – an initiative spearheaded by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in partnership with, among others; the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) and the Department of Higher Education, is the first institution of its kind in the country wholly dedicated to human resources academic and vocational skills development and upliftment precisely for the country’s maritime economic sector, and located in the Eastern Cape; a region of the country reputably the ‘second poorest’ even as endowed with 900km of a coastline – the second longest after the Western Cape.
Only four of South Africa’s nine provinces are along the 3200km coastline stretching from the Atlantic Coast to the west, the Southern Ocean to the south and the Indian Ocean to the east, and therefore with a direct claim to an Exclusive Economic Zone of the oceans that stretches for more than 1.5 million square kilometres.
The location of SAIMI in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape; reportedly funded currently to the tune of about R300-million, is largely due to the region’s eminent interest in contributing significantly to the revival of the country’s maritime economic sector.
From a sea trade or transport perspective, the province lays claim to three major ports, two in Nelson Mandela Bay and another in East London, in addition to a sprinkling of fishing harbours dotted along the coastline between Plettenberg Bay at the western border with the Western Cape province, through to East London.
The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University at which SAIMI is accommodated, and one of four universities in the province, had notably long taken a lead in expressing interest in efforts for the revival and placement of the country’s maritime economic sector central in South Africa’s socio-economic development agenda.
The university is reportedly the first in the country to establish a functional relationship with the Malmo (Sweden) based World Maritime University and on the basis of which South Africa has been dispatching annually scores of Masters and Doctoral students for maritime studies since 2013.
With the location of SAIMI in the windy city, the country’s only dedicated cadet training vessel the SA Agulhas has found home here, as has the first commercial cargo vessel registered under the country’s flag, the Cape Orchid domesticated in the city.
Indeed, on its first voyage abroad, loaded with tons of iron ore destined for China last October, the Cape Orchid had also taken on-board a batch of cadets for training for a period of six months. Two of these young men were from villages in the mostly rural Eastern Cape.
On Friday Mr Zuma said the Eastern Cape remained poised to make even greater contribution to the country’s maritime economic revival – and about which he said most people countrywide knew little to nothing about until recently – and urged for collaboration and co-operation to ensure Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) delivered on its goals.
To the extent that the Eastern Cape gained the recognition it deserved in this regard, Friday was a good day in Port Elizabeth and it was a good day for the Friendly City.
At least that was impression on the faces of many among the thousands that came to welcome Mr Zuma’s report.
Mr Zuma said he would be back in the city in a week’s time, but this time for the launch of his party, the ANC’s local government election manifesto.
South Africans go to the polls for local government elections on 03 August 2016.
Lookout for the audi-visuals of the event on this blog later on.
Staying constantly in touch with SA Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) financially sponsored students at the country’s various education institutions is among key priorities for Ms Sindiswa Nhlumayo, the executive head of the organization’s Centre for Maritime Excellence and to which SAMSA’s maritime economic sector education, training and skills development program is entrusted.