Port Elizabeth was South Africa’s President, Jacob Zuma’s choice for the 2016 Presidential National Progress Report on Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) in April. This week the city hosted yet another national maritime sector event with international flavour.
Port Elizabeth: 07 June 2016
While national traditional media might be paying little if any attention to it, the Mandela Bay Chamber of Commerce (Port Elizabeth) can barely hide its appreciation for the national and international attention the region is increasingly drawing in domestic and international maritime sector initiatives.
The chamber’s chief executive Kevin Hustler was remarking on the staging early this week of yet another maritime sector development oriented event in Port Elizabeth with much international flavour, a two-day seminar on national maritime sector cluster development involving thought leaders mostly from South Africa and Norway.
The event, at a venue situated along the city’s pristine Blue-flagged Humewood beach and about a kilometre east of the port of Port Elizabeth, held under the Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) theme, also provided the venue for the signing of a historical bilateral agreement between the Norwegian government and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University that involves the setting up of an academic institute to focus on illegal fishing studies and management strategy development.
Mr Hustler was among about 200 delegates that attended on Monday, alongside which was the city’s Mayor, Dr Danny Jordaan but who could only address the delegates on Tuesday.
The Mandela Bay Chamber represents the largest membership number of businesses in the city inclusive of three major vehicle and components manufacturers in the city, Volkswagen South Africa, General Motors South Africa and Ford Motor Company South Africa.
The Chamber is also a stakeholder and key role player in the region’s Maritime Cluster set up some four years ago.
To hear Mr Hustler’s remarks during a brief interview during the two day seminar, Click Below
A double-digit increase in the budget allocation by the Department of Transport for maritime sector development in the 2016/17 financial year is yet another signal of Government’s commitment and determination to strengthen focus on the important sector of the country’s economy.
In her budget vote for the 2016/17 financial year presented to Parliament recently, Minister of Transport Ms Dipuo Peters said that the maritime sector’s budget allocation had been raised from R111-million in the previous year to R122-million in the current, an increase of 10%.
This was more than twice the increase the Department of Transport received for its total budget, which rose about 4% from R53.5-billion in the previous year to R56-billion in the 2016/16 financial year.
Naturally, the bulk of the department’s budget allocation went to road transport (R24.7-billion), rail transport (R19-billion), public transport (R11.7-billion), with civil aviation and maritime allocated R253-million and R122-million respectively.
The figures reflect increases of approximately nine (9) percent for road transport, four (4) percent for rail transport, two (2) percent for public transport, 69% for civil aviation and 10% for maritime sector.
According to Ms Peters in her budget vote on May 10, the double-digit budget increase in the allocation to the maritime sector reflects the increasing focus the country now has on development of the sector for transformation and formal integration in the main economy.
She noted specifically the role played by the South Africa Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in this regard and whose visionary and pioneering role over the last few years had contributed immensely to among others things, the launch of Operation Phakisa: Ocean Economy and the latter whose six labs are currently at work developing focused strategies for rapid development of the sector.
Ms Peters told Parliament that: “Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow South Africans; in the last two years the country increased its focus on the opportunities our more 3000km of coastline provide when Operation Phakisa; Oceans Economy was launched.
“This then called for the DoT and other departments to align strategic, legislative, policy and regulatory frameworks. This was done both for governance and economic reasons.
“The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has wasted no time in embracing this groundbreaking economic stream.
“SAMSA has struck a partnership with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and the Department of Higher Education in a National Cadetship Programme. This has resulted in one hundred and twenty-four (124) cadets being placed on eighteen (18) partner vessels.”
She further noted that the establishment of the country’s Ports Regulator had begun to make positive impacts, noting that: “A strategy to make doing business with our South African ports attractive, has seen zero percent (0%) increase on all cargo dues – thanks to the Ports Regulator South Africa. In support of drought relief and its impact on food prices, maize cargo dues for the first 5 million tons will be discounted by 50% in 2016/17 financial year.”
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.