Maritime education and skills development remain the vital ingredient for South Africa in her drive to unlock fully the huge value residing in its maritime sector, according to the Department of Transport.
This was said by deputy Minister of Transport, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga on Friday during the marking and celebration of the World Maritime Day 2018 held over two days at eManzana (Badplaas) in Mpumalanga Province.
She was addressing a crowd of mostly young school children in their matric year who were essentially the target of this year’s marking of the international event as driven and guided by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to which South Africa is a member.
Also represented were some State owned entities in the transport sector under the Department of Transport inclusive of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), South African Ports Regulator, the Mpumalanga provincial government and local government authorities under which Badplaas falls.
According to Ms Chikunga, targeting young school children from schools in the area was part of a concerted effort by the DoT and government in general to raise and enhance greater public awareness countrywide about South Africa’s status as a fully fledged maritime region and upon which the rest of the world also count on for oceans trade and safety and security, hence its high profile role both in regional, continental and global institutions concerned with maritime matters.
Ms Chikunga described it as proper that South Africa should mark the World Maritime Day annually, and in the process reflect on both its needs and challenges relating to the maritime sector.
Currently she said, education and skills development were the key to unlocking the country’s maritime sector value both economically and socially. Towards this end, the DoT in particular, together with partners in the public and private sectors were offering as much financial and related assistance as possible to the country’s youths keen on pursuing tertiary studies in the sector in South Africa and abroad.
The country’s youth in internal provinces such as Mpumalanga, Free State, North West, Limpopo and Gauteng – all of which are far from the oceans – were not excluded from the maritime education, training and skills development initiatives, nor were those either poor or based in rural communities.
This was, she said, partly evidenced and demonstrated by the alternative staging of the World Maritime Day annually in both coastal and inland provinces – with 2018 having been the turn of Mpumalanga Province, after the Eastern Cape a year ago, and the Free State in the year before.
Ms Chikunga outlined at length the types and kind of education, training and skills development initiatives available to South African youths across the board. For more on this, Click on the video below.
Held over two days – the Thursday and Friday last week at both the Vygeboom/Oppi Dam and the Badplaas Forever Resorts – the celebration of the World Maritime Day 2018 saw as many 400 pupils from the Gert Sibande District Municipality or greater eManzana area exposed to both basic waters skills, primarily safety, demonstrated by the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) and the South African Police Services (SAPS) water division, as well as career exhibitions.
The youths also participated in the ship building competition and display that allowed for display of some spectacular talent by some.
For more on this, click on the following story links
Maritime economies around the world turn their focus momentarily onto the sector globally this week to observe the annual celebration of the World Maritime Day held in the last week of September each year as set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and South Africa joins the activity over two days in Badplaas, Mpumalanga on Thursday and Friday.
Domestically, organized and driven by the national Department of Transport, the World Maritime Day 2018 event in Mpumalanga Province that begun on Thursday morning is the second such to be to held in one of South Africa’s five internal provinces in last few years.
The purpose thereof, according to the DoT, is to continue to enhance greater public awareness countrywide about the country’s maritime status and its significance and contribution to socio economic development.
“Every year, the IMO observes and celebrates the World Maritime Day (WMD). This event usually takes place during the last week of September each year. It is an IMO event that serves to promote awareness and maximize participation of all maritime transport stakeholders in order to promote safe, secure and environmentally sound seas.
“For the year 2018, the IMO Council and Assembly adopted the theme: “IMO 70: Our Heritage – Better Shipping for a Better Future”. This theme provides the opportunity to take stock and look back, but also to look forward, addressing current and future challenges for maritime sector.
“In 2016 World Maritime Day was celebrated in the Free State Province and saw participation from the two adjoining provinces of Northern Cape and Eastern Cape. Notably so it was a celebration within the perimeters of the Gariep Dam.
“In 2017, the event was celebrated at a coastal town of Port St Johns which was in part celebrating the centenary of OR Tambo. This year, Mpumalanga is hosting the 2018 celebration at Baadplaas Forever Resort,” said the DoT
For a full statement by DoT Deputy Minister Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga, click on the three minute video below:
According to the DoT, this year’s event will be used to profile the World Maritime Day celebration and in the process, raise general public awareness about the maritime sector, particularly the inland communities, raise awareness of the contribution of the maritime sector to the socio-economic lives of South Africans and enhance awareness among particularly school learners from previously disadvantaged communities in the province of Mpumalanga and throughout the country about the career opportunities available in the maritime sector.
Countering what the department describes as a general lack of awareness and ignorance about the maritime sector and which makes it difficult for the public and the media to have interests in the industry, this year’s celebration will focus among other things on South Africa a coastal and a port state, the country’s vision for its maritime sector, its global positioning as a well trusted partner with the IMO and a strategic and trusted partner in the fight against piracy.
Information will also be shared about South Africa preparations to host the 2020 World Maritime Day Parallel Event, the first to be hosted in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Friday’s event will see several senior national and provincial government officials, inclusive of the Deputy Minister of Transport, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga, senior management of the South African Maritime Safety Authority and others converge Baadplaas Report for the official function starting 9am through to 2.30pm
The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between South Africa and Poland in Cape Town on Wednesday marked a turning point in the development and enhancement of relations between the two countries and which will benefit both in the long term particularly with regards maritime sector issues.
This is according to South Africa’s Transport Department deputy Minister, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga and Poland’s Minister of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation, Mr Marek Gróbarczyk during the ceremony of the welcoming to South Africa of Poland’s centennial independence celebration’s vessel, Dar Młodzieży at the port of Cape Town.
The vessel with a crew of some 250 members on aboard including about 60 cadets, is on a round-the-world trip that began recently in Poland and shall continue until the end of March 2019, with stop-overs in as many as 22 ports around the world.
South Africa was the second stop over on Wednesday, where the vessel will remain at the port of Cape Town in a jetty adjacent the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront at the foot of Table Mountain until Friday.
On arrival in Cape Town late morning on Wednesday to sounds of the South African Navy’s brass band at Cape Town harbour’s cruise terminal, crew and passengers of Dar Młodzieży were formally welcomed on South African soil by Ms Chikunga on behalf of the South African government, along with Mr Gróbarczyk, Poland’s Ambassador to South Africa, Mr Andrzej Kanthak and other senior government officials including South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) Chief Operations Officer, Mr Sobantu Tilayi.
Thereafter, the Polish maritime students and cadets who were joined by their South African counterparts from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) for a combined group of about 200, were later treated to a braai on board South Africa’s only dedicated cadet training vessel, the SA Agulhas.
In-between the events, Ms Chikunga and Mr Gróbarczyk signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the basis of which, they said, the two countries would endeavor to enhance co-operation and joint pursuit of socio economic development initiatives but especially in relation to the maritime economic sector.
Areas of likely immediate focus would include ship repairs and maritime education and training, said Ms Chikunga, while Mr Gróbarczyk felt it also an opportune time for the two countries to enhance relations ahead of South Africa’s hosting of an International Maritime Organization (IMO) conference in the country in 2020.
In the video clips below, Ms Chikunga (clip 1 lasting 3 minutes) and Mr Gróbarczyk each explains the genesis of the development and the respective country’s hopes to strengthen relations.
Meanwhile, also in remarks welcoming the group of Polish and South African maritime students and cadets on board the SA Agulhas late Wednesday afternoon, Mr Tilayi described it as important the establishment of sound relations with countries such as Poland which would benefit South Africa’s emergent pursuit of redevelopment of its own maritime economic sector.
For his full remarks, click on the video below.
On Friday, the group will be taken on a tour of Robben Island before the centennial independence celebration vessel set sail yet again, this time for Madagascar.
Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront will be the host venue on Wednesday for Poland’s celebration of its 100th year of independence, an event marked by the docking of one of its most celebrated old sailing vessels, Dar Młodzieży which docks at the port of Cape Town at about noon, with a crew of more than 100, comprising mostly cadets and maritime students.
The vessel’s stop-over in Cape Town is part of a 10-months round-the-world trip dubbed Independence Sail and during which it will visit as many as 22 ports. Cape Town is its second stop from Europe and one of two involving the African continent.
Other ports in the list include Tallinn, Copenhagen, Stavanger, Bremenhaven, Bordeaux, Tenerife, Dakar, Mauritius, Jakarta, Singapore, Shanghai, Osaka, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Acapulco, Panama, Miami, Ponta Delgada and London.
It is expected to finish the round-the-world trip sometime in March 2019.
According to organizers of the event in Cape Town over the next three days beginning Wednesday morning, senior representatives of both the Polish and South Africans, during the three day stop-over in South Africa, a number of events focusing on Polish history and culture will be held.
Central to the activity, according to organizers, will be the promotional events to establish and enhance both socio-economic and cultural cooperation between Poland and South Africa.
On arrival in Cape Town today, the vessel is scheduled to be welcomed jointly by the Deputy Minister of Transport Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga, along with Polish government counter-parts that include the Minister of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation, Mr Marek Grobarczyk, the Ambassador of Poland to South Africa, Dr Andrzej Kanthak.
According to the programme of Wednesday’s welcoming event, two ‘Letters of Intent’ are scheduled to be signed between the Ministry of Transport (South Africa) and the Ministry of Economic and Inland Navigation (Poland) as well as between Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and the Port of Gdynia.
Later in the day, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) will host the Polish maritime students and cadets to a braai on board its cadet training vessel, the SA Agulhas. The festive event will also involve maritime students from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).
South Africa’s bid to retain its seat in the International Maritime Organization (IMO) General Council got underway in earnest in London on Tuesday after the country’s deputy Transport Minister Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga addressed the assembly during its final gathering of 2017 which ends in early December.
The IMO Council whose members are drawn from 40 Member States around the world, is the executive organ of the IMO responsible for supervising the work of the international organization. The IMO Council is elected by the IMO Assembly for two-year terms.
The IMO’s General Assembly meets for its last meeting in 2017 on 7 December.
For IMO purposes, the Africa (sub-Saharan) region is composed of 48 countries bordering the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden and of these, 37 are IMO Member States.
According to the IMO, the Africa region has a combined total coastline of 30,725 km with South Africa, – located epicenter across three oceans, the Atlantic to the west, the Southern in the south and the Indian Ocean to the east – accounting for approximately 10% or 3200 km of that coastline.
In her address of the IMO in London on Tuesday, Ms Chikunga noted that South Africa was the only country in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region of Africa standing for re-election in the IMO Council and in South Africa’s viewpoint, it was only correct that IMO Member States in Africa, Europe, the Americas, Asia and Oceanic states should support the country’s retention as a member of the IMO Council.
“The re-election of South Africa to the Council will ensure that the developing countries in general and the African continent in particular gets a fair voice in the international maritime affairs,” said Ms Chikunga.
Ms Chikunga further highlighted several other factors in which South Africa remains a central player towards the IMO and the world’s pursuit of particularly sustainable development of oceans economies.
According to Ms Chikunga, shipping which is responsible for more than 80% of global trade, continues to play a very critical and prominent role in connecting people worldwide which phenomenon she said placed the IMO at the epicentre of ensuring that such global activities were accomplished seamlessly, without unnecessary hindrances.
She said: “International trade is very central and critical to many African countries, whether landlocked or coastal states. In that regard, the Africa Union took a conscious decision to adopt the 2050 African Maritime Integrated Strategy (AIMS) which seeks to provide a broad framework for the protection and sustainable exploitation of the African Maritime Domain for wealth creation. South Africa is actively operationalizing the provisions of that Strategy.
For its role in global maritime trade transport, Ms Chikunga said South Africa has eight (8) commercial ports that handle in excess of 13 100 international ship traffic a year and approximately 300 million tonnes of cargo annually.
Geographically, along with its own infrastructure, the country was strategically located on one of the major vital shipping lanes known as the ‘Cape Route’ that connects east and west seas thereby placing the country among critical role-players in world maritime affairs.
These factors according to Ms Chikunga were significant given that the IMO plays a crucial role towards the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) especially on climate change and gender equality, and South Africa is well placed to continue to support the initiatives through collaborative efforts with relevant stakeholders.
This she reflected on as a United Nations led conference is underway in Cape Town this week, looking at regional collaborations on the implementation of the ‘Large Marine Ecosystem Approach’ as an instrument towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal 14. The conference is being held at the V&A Waterfront parallel this year’s South Africa leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017/18
In London on Tuesday, Ms Chikunga also impressed on the IMO gathering that alongside development, there also are issues of safety and security that are crucial to orderly management of the oceans.
“In support of international efforts to bring security and stability in the broader Indian Ocean under the Djibouti Code of Conduct, South Africa adopted a Strategy intending to curb acts of piracy and armed robbery of ships. In that regard, South Africa deployed her navy vessels along the Mozambique Channel as a deterrent to acts of piracy and armed robbery of ships in the southern Indian Ocean area,” said Ms Chikunga
In addition she said: “As part of our coastal State obligation, we continue to provide reliable Search and Rescue services to international shipping in our region which extends to the Antarctica.
“Furthermore, South Africa, through partnership with the IMO, has converted her highly reliable Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) to the Regional Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre Cape Town to assist ships in distress in the Region,” she said.
The South Africa bid to retain its seat on the IMO Council occurs as the southern African country prepares to host it’s inaugural IMO World Maritime Day Parallel Event in 2020.
That event, tentatively scheduled for Durban, is intended to highlight the significant role of global shipping and the role of the IMO.
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.
World Maritime University (WMU) leader and academic, Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry visited South Africa for a week last week and apparently left very impressed with the progress being achieved in relations between her Malmo, Sweden-based educational institution and South Africa.
Dr Doumbia-Henry whose meetings in the country – from Sunday to Wednesday last week – began with senior government officials, among them Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, Transport Minister Ms Dipuo Peters and her deputy, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga and later leaders of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI), the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and the Transport Education and Training Authority (Teta); said she was particularly impressed by the contribution now being made by dozens of local officials and maritime sector experts who achieved their post graduate education in maritime at the WMU over the last few years.
On Tuesday, she’d spent the better part of the day with at least about a dozen of the WMU alumni at SAMSA’s head office in Pretoria, and during which meeting the group – all of whom work for SAMSA – shared their work experiences and insights back in the country since their graduation in Malmo over the last few years. The meeting was also attended by a group of SAMSA senior management representatives as well as the DoT director, Ts’episo Taoana-Mashiloane
In an interview with this blog, The 10th Province shortly thereafter, Dr Doumbia-Henry was full of praise about the nature and level of the graduates involvement in programmes intended to enhance the rapid yet sustainable development of the country’s maritime economic sector inclusive of environmental protection of the ocean space, safety of personnel in the sector, the upholding of laws relevant to the ocean spaces as well as research and innovation.
She confirmed that she was in the country to strengthen relations with both Government – which has been the main supporter and contributor to the annual dispatch of South Africans to WMU since 2012 – as well as tidy up mutual bilateral relations with education and training institutions such as the NMMU, SAIMI and related; and leaders of the first two, Professor Derrick Swartz and Professor Malek Pourzanjani whom she spend some considerable time with between Sunday and Wednesday.
In the following video, Dr Doumbio-Henry fully outlines the purpose of her visit as well as her impressions of the country.
A South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) initiative, supported and driven by the Department of Transport, to alleviate the plight of a northern KwaZulu-Natal community forever swamped in water, has moved yet another significant step forward after eight (8) new boat skipper trainees completed their training in Durban recently.
All eight skipper trainees – four males and four females – are from the community of Enkovukeni, at Umhlab’uyalingana and all successfully went through a rigorous training programme at the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board Maritime Centre of Excellence in Durban a week ago.
The training, conducted by the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board along with SAMSA, is part of a now much broader community initiative launched about three months ago to initially provide water based transport to the Enkovukeni community, a village situated on a thin 5km waterlogged stretch piece of land forming part of the Isimangaliso Wetland Park – South Africa’s first world heritage – in the north of KwaZulu-Natal.
Enkovukeni, at Mhlabauyalingana, is practically an island, stretching from Bhanga Neck to Kosi Bay Mouth with the Indian Ocean on one side and the Kosi Bay lake system on the other. The area is virtually only accessible by foot or make shift canoes which residents currently use.
The initiative is part of the Umhlabuyalingana Outreach Project which was initially proposed as a Nelson Mandela International Day project by SAMSA, the latter which drew a partnership with other stakeholders to accelerate delivery of services and bring immediate and long term relief to the community.
Private sector partners now supporting SAMSA and the Department of Transport include Dormac, Subtech, Smith Amandla Marine, Unicorn, SA Shipyards, MIASA, KZN Sharks board, FBI Communications, Viking Lifesaving and Surfing Equipment.
The newly trained boat skippers, all previously unemployed youths from the community will once formally licensed, be charged with responsibility for manning and managing the boats to be deployed with the community, said SAMSA Curriculum Development Specialist, Mr Mzwamandla Sosibo.
Mr Sosibo and KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board Education Project Specialist, Mr Vincent Zulu who oversaw the training, were on hand in Durban last Friday to see the group return home after its training.
Mr Sosibo said SAMSA was pleased that significant progress was being achieved with the initiative, but precisely with regards water based transport for the community as this remained the main challenge to address all other problems. For his full remarks Click Here:
Meanwhile, Mr Zulu said the Enkovukeni initiative constituted an example of the nature of beneficiation communities across the country could elicit from the national Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) initiative launched in 2014.
Of the eight skipper trainees, he said they had an equal obligation to ensure that contribution made to their Enkovukeni community fully benefitted everyone and that projects initiated were jealously guarded and fully supported by the community for long term sustainability. For Mr Zulu’s full remarks, Click Here
Meanwhile, the eight boat skipper trainees said they were “absolutely elated” to have been included in the programme and vowed to give it their all to ensure the programme is sustainable.
For their remarks (averaging one minute each), please Click the pictures below
Early exposure of young people to possible future careers in any field of occupation in life remains key to sustainable, orderly education, training and skills development and the staging of this year’s Transport Week, currently underway at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Newtown, Johannesburg; is in keeping with this truism.
Transport Week 2016, held in the month of October to dovetail with South Africa’s ‘Transport Month’ is a week-long career expo and exhibition intended to share information with thousands of foundational level students on careers available in the country’s transport subsectors; rail, air, road and sea. (For video highlights Click Here)
Among key participants at the careers expo are the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL), rail operator Gautrain Company and about 20 others from both the public and private sectors.
No less than 6000 pupils from Gauteng schools in an around Johannesburg – about three quarters of them being high school pupils – are scheduled to attend the event over the five days during which they will interact with as many as 40 presenters in short classes averaging 30 minutes per session on careers information.
At kick-start on Monday, Deputy Minister of Transport, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga officiated, walking about the centre interacting with both the exhibitors as well as the first group of about 380 pupils present during the morning session.
According to SAMSA, organizers of the maritime sector expo section, and first time participants in the annual transport sector career expo during October; the event provides opportunity also for maritime sector key role-players to share directly with other role players in the transport sector critical information about skills development in the maritime subsector to help youths make informed decisions about their future careers.
Since 2012, the Maritime Industry Focus Week organised through a partnership between SAMSA and Sci-Bono Discovery Centre was held separately during the early part of the year.
“The main purpose of the Transport Week is to help guide the learners towards realizing the importance of various career prospects within the transport sector inclusive of information on bursaries, learnerships and employment opportunities that are available.
“It is also to raise the awareness also of educators so that they can become ambassadors and carry on instilling an interest in the learners to consider choosing a career in trasportation.”
Sharing of information with learners on the maritime sector includes aspects relating to the country’s Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) programme.
Initiative to alleviate community plight now a Presidential Project – Deputy Minister of Transport
Pretoria: 11 September 2016
After wading through crocodile, hippopotamus and rhinoceros infested waters for decades – more than five centuries by one account – the community of Enkovukeni, a small village patched on a forested hill surrounded by deep lakes waters on the one side, and the pulsating waves of the Indian Ocean on the other, at Umhlabuyalingana on the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal, might soon have a bridge at last.
That is if the South African government which has taken focus of the area fully for the first time, can negotiate a few treacherous corners inclusive of international conventions governing the management of the country’s first ever World Heritage Site; the Isimangaliso Wetlands Park in which the village is tightly locked in.
On Friday, Deputy Minister of Transport, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga accompanied by members of top management of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), a group of private sector representatives and provincial and local government officials in KwaZulu-Natal; met the villagers with their traditional leader, Inkosi Tembe and she gave an undertaking that national government would look into the plight of the community.
They told her in unison, without a second thought; they wanted a bridge, along with a ‘two-lane’ road.
The desperate request is based on the fact that an only entrance by a vehicle into the area – stopping short of a kilometer to the village, on the banks of an oft swollen lake – is a three to five kilometer long single-lane shifting sand pit barely two meters wide, running rugged through a thicket on which only off-road vehicles are able successfully to grind.
Folklore has it that a few locals who’d ever managed to buy a vehicle, any type of vehicle; have never ever been able to take it home. Boating on the heritage site lakes is also apparently highly regulated.
On Friday, Ms Chikunga however described it as a bizarre situation that should not obtain still in the new South Africa, and committed that government would fully investigate the possibility of constructing a bridge across some part of the lake in order to provide more secure and safe mobility for the community.
But that will partly require working past a basket of international conventions along with domestic laws, rules and regulations governing the management of the Isimangaliso World Heritage Site.
Information on the park’s website states that the iSimangaliso Wetland Park was listed as South Africa’s first World Heritage Site in December 1999 “in recognition of its superlative natural beauty and unique global values.”
It states: “The 332 000 hectare Park contains three major lake systems, eight interlinking ecosystems, 700 year old fishing traditions, most of South Africa’s remaining swamp forests, Africa’s largest estuarine system, 526 bird species and 25 000 year-old vegetated coastal dunes – among the highest in the world. The name iSimangaliso means miracle and wonder, which aptly describes this unique place.”
The deputy Minister’s visit of the area on Friday was the second since August 14, 2016; following to an initiative by the Pretoria headquartered South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) together with private sector partners in the Durban region’s maritime sector to assist the Enkovukeni community with mainly water based transport.
According to SAMSA acting CEO, Mr Sobantu Tilayi, the initiative was sparked by a news report earlier this year that depicted the living conditions of the community as dire due to an almost complete lack of not only transport, but anything else to enhance its life to a level others in surrounding areas generally take for granted.
As part of its community outreach programme under the annual Nelson Mandela International Day (2016), the authority mobilized support for help among some private sector companies that could lend a hand, in the form of boats that could be donated,.
To date a handful agreed, among them the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, shipping group Smit-Amandla Marine, Dormac, Subtech, Unicorn, SA Shipyards, MIASA, FBI Communications, Viking Lifesaving and Surfing Equipment FBI Communications and some others.
The event Friday was to both hand over the first of possibly two or three boats the community would be donated with in order just to be safe enough for day to day travel, including school children who have to cross the lake daily to attend school, the sick who need medical help and the elderly who have to collect their social grants.
It was also for government at all three tiers to consult further with the community on how best it could be further assisted.
Ms Chikunga announced that government had taken serious note of the situation such that it was now being undertaken as a Presidential Project under the direct control of President Jacob Zuma.
Mobilization, she said; had begun by the Department of Transport (under her directive) to involve and engage fully no less than seven other national departments – Public Works; Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Basic Education, Local Government and Traditional Affairs, Small Business, Trade and Industry, Energy Affairs, and Arts and Culture; but also the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government in efforts to focus their attention to action to alleviate the plight of the Enkovukeni community.
“When I visited the area for the first time on 14 August 2016, and held talks with Inkosi Tembe and some members of the community, I promised I would be back with a progress report. Today, I am back not only with a report back, but also with tools and equipment intended to alleviate the plight of this community. The boats are not a total solution, but are a start.
“As promised, I have since taken your situation to the Office of the President with a proposal that this situation be undertaken as a Presidential Project, and he has agreed. The next step proposed is the establishment of an inter-Ministerial Task team involving deputy Ministers of the respective departments in order that we package a comprehensive programme that will deliver on the issues requiring address.
“The Director General in the Office of the President is currently arranging for the first of such meetings,” she said.
Ms Chikunga said the involvement of as many national government departments as was possible was a necessity to ensure that as many challenges facing the community as possible were noted and where possible addressed holistically as soon as possible.
These included skills development for especially fishermen, small business development in particularly tourism as well as aspects related to arts and culture.
In addition, housing assistance and electrification, school nutrition and related matters, land management and general development needed specific and urgent attention, she said.
Ms Chikunga promised to return to the village within the next few weeks to deliver shoes to school going children (estimated at about 150) as well as certain basic necessities to families.
To listen fully to Ms Chikunga’s address (mainly in isiZulu), as well as the rest of the officials and community members, please click on the audio clips and video links provided below. The clips are in order of the programme as presented on Friday.