Xhariep Dam Resort (Free State): 30 September 2016
Ill-discipline by South Africa’s youth at the country’s educational institutions involving wanton violence and destruction of property is a serious threat to many gains made to improve the socio economic conditions of South Africa’s people, Free State MEC for Transport, Bhutana Khompela has warned.
The warning came during celebration of World Maritime Day 2016 held this year at the Xhariep (Gariep) Dam in the Free State. The national Department of Transport driven annual event’s proceedings incorporate a Careers Expo during which foundational students (Grade 10-12) are taken through an exposition of a variety of careers in the country’s maritime sector.
Speaking during the main event on Thursday, Mr Khompela said the Free State Province regarded education as top priority and that it led the country’s other eight provincial governments in spending the most on bursaries to support tertiary level students with their studies in South Africa and abroad.
However, he said he noted with sadness and frustration that the country’s universities had been forcibly closed down by violent students for what he described as no sensible reason.
“When we fought for the liberation of this country, we said ‘liberation first and education last’. We achieved liberation and now it is time for education. Education must come first and nothing else!” said Mr Khompela
He warned that the notion of a free education was a misnomer South Africa’s youth at universities were using based on ignorance bothering on malice, and that their violent actions to demand free education were both unreasonable and a serious threat to socio economic development gains made since 1994.
He said in full recognition of the fact that education was not free, a total 8000 bursaries were awarded students in the province by the provincial government with the ultimate objective of producing highly educated youths who would in turn contribute even better to the development of the country’s economy in a whole range of sectors inclusive maritime.
Mr Khompela said at the end of the current year, the province would be welcoming back a total 400 doctors who have completed their medical studies through support by the province and who would now contribute to uplifting the health standards of people in the province’s rural communities.
He pledged that the Free State provincial government would extend the the same financial support also to students keen on pursuing careers in the country’s maritime sector.
However, he said; those efforts would all be in vain if wayward youth at the country’s tertiary level education institutions demanding free education and bent on violence and destruction of valuable property solely to force their way, were allowed to get away with it.
“We never received free education. We were oppressed, yet we did everything possible to obtain education under the most difficult conditions. There is no such thing as free education. There is no country anywhere in the world that offers free education. Even Cuba, does not offer free education,” said Mr Khompela.
Exploration and responsible exploitation of maritime sector opportunities are not the preserve of only South Africa’s coastal provinces but are a multi-billion rand worth golden opportunity all people in the country should equally pursue and enjoy, speakers at this year’s World Maritime Day celebration on Thursday, 29 September 2016 emphasised.
Leading the charge at the function held this year on the west end of the Gariep Dam – South Africa’s biggest by far – situated at the Orange River, some 200km south of Bloemfontein, Free State Province – was South African Maritime Safety Authority’s (SAMSA) acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr Sobantu Tilayi, along with his counterparts in Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) CE, Mr Richard Vallihu and National Ports Regulator, Mr Mahesh Fakir
Addressing an audience of about 600 people, just about half of whom were high school pupils deliberately bussed in from surrounding rural schools for a career exposition, Mr Tilayi said the country’s maritime economic sector, long in the periphery of economic activity for particularly the black majority, was now an open canvass upon which talent is being be drawn from across all sectors of society for the greater benefit of all.
With South Africa’s maritime economic sector, through the Operation Phakisa initiative, projected to contribute as much as R177-billion to the country’s Gross Domestic Product and in the process creating as many as 800 000 to 1-million direct jobs by 2033, according to Mr Tilayi, it was incumbent upon leadership of inland provinces to quickly but carefully figure out how communities located here could benefit.
Under Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy), key focus areas comprised marine transport and manufacturing, offshore oil and gas exploration, aquaculture, marine protection services and governance, small harbours, maritime heritage, coastal and marine tourism involving also inland waters, skills and capacity building and research technology and innovation.
These are backed up by Government’s port and onshore infrastructure development – some with private sector investors – involving about R500-billion over the next decade spread across and in between the country’s eight major ports from Saldanha Bay in the west through to Richards Bay in the east.
In part, this was to take advantage of the business and job creation opportunities presented by the approximately 30 000 vessels (about 60% of total global fleet) passing South Africa each year, and about 13 000 of which dock at the country’s ports for a whole range of reasons – a global sea trade scenario Mr Tilayi described as positioning South Africa as the “corner café” of the global shipping industry given its equidistant location at the southern tip of the African continent between western and eastern countries.
Through this steadily increasing opportunity, previously neglected coastal cities such as Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape – now with the country’s deepest port, the port of Ngqurha – were benefitting by as much as R150-million per month due to recently introduced bunkering services.
Mr Tilayi, however, dismissed it as ignorance and a misconception that people in the country’s four coastal provinces stretching some 3000km from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean – Northern Cape, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal – for close proximity only, were necessarily better advantaged or entitled to exploration and exploitation of maritime sector economic opportunities.
Indeed, from a maritime sector skills development perspective, he said, Limpopo – the most inland and furthest province from the oceans by more than a thousand kilometers in any direction – was proving the notion a myth as it competed equally, progressively with coastal provinces, ranking second to KwaZulu-Natal in the production of seafarers now numbering close on 12 000.
In addition to an increasing number of cadets from Limpopo at the country’s maritime sector education focused institutions, Mr Tilayi said the province made maritime sector history recently as a home to one of the first ever three young black women to qualify as Master Mariners qualified to handle any type or size of commercial vessel anywhere in the world.
Stressing an importance of recognition that skills and business opportunities in the country’s maritime sector were by no means limited at all by ocean-going, but rather involving occupations also as basic as farming, manufacturing or services with no direct connection with seafaring, he said the Free State province, the most central of the country’s five inland provinces, had every reason to figure out urgently how to take advantage of its location in order to position itself as a meaningful player also in the maritime economic sector.
Mr Tilayi also urged Government and the private sector to increasingly work much closer together. He said while it was Government’s role to facilitate business investment opportunities, it was private sector investors’ responsibility to actively show appetite through direct engagement and involvement.
Meanwhile, Mr Vallihu of Transnet’s National Ports Authority extended an invitation to the Free State community to take advantage of the ports authority vast training programme across several interrelated transport sectors – road, rail and sea.
He said the NPA with four divisions is currently involved in an infrastructure, transport and logistics investment over 10 years since 2012 worth half a trillion rand. Since 2012 to date he said, the NPA had spent some R124-billlion on these, but also as much as R8-billion in skills development alone, leading to the graduation in 2015 of close on 4 000 trainees in various skills.
To increase public awareness of the opportunities, Mr Vallihu announced that the NPA had launched a free WiFi service in mostly disadvantaged communities of the eight port cities to enable people to fully gain access to relevant information relating to the ports’ activities.
To listen to Mr Vallihu’s full remarks, Click Here
Research into South Africa’s maritime heritage has been given a boost following a commitment by the National Heritage Council (NHC) to collaborate with the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in efforts that maritime heritage received priority attention for recognition in the country’s swathe of heritage records.
The commitment – soon to be followed by ratification of a formal Memoranda of Understanding and Agreement (MOU and MOA), respectively, was made by the NHC Chief Executive Officer, Advocate Sonwabile Mancotywa at the formal launch of the initiative during the World Maritime Day observation event held at the Xhariep (Gariep) Dam in the Free State from Tuesday to Thursday this past week.
Acknowledged by both parties during the event was that South Africa’s maritime heritage was just as rich and yet lagged behind in terms of formal recognition and celebration during the Heritage Month of September.
In addition, and equally crucial, was the fact that South Africa’s history of maritime ignore or remain ignorant of historical dimensions of the country’s maritime journey which appeared limited to recognition only of European traders like Bartholomew Diaz, that rounded the Cape Point on or about the 15th century.
According to Adv Mancotywa, not only was this incorrect, but it perpetually distorted South Africa’s maritime history through a distorted perspective that effectively undermined the role others played in the development of ocean-based trade endeavours, such as Chinese explorers that reached the country’s eastern coasts several years prior.
Contemporary South African history was also oblivious or ignored the use of the country’s oceans by liberation struggle organisations during the fight against apartheid.
One such initiative occurred as recently as the early 1970s when a hitherto little known naval unit of the African National Congress’ uMkhonto we Sizwe trained in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) embarked on an ocean-based military sojourn, aboard the ANC-acquired vessel, Aventura, from Baku in Azerbaijan to South Africa, only to suffer suspected yet irreversible ‘sabotage’ while on the Indian Ocean, parallel Somalia.
Two of the five surviving members of the 30-odd member MK naval unit, Commander Fanele Mbali and Commissar Rankabele Tlou Cholo, were at the World Maritime Day function from Wednesday to Thursday to share their experiences of the mission.
Their story is also documented in their respective autobiography and bibliography published a while ago.
Mbali’s book, titled: “In Transit – Autography of a South African Freedom Fighter,” featuring among others; Dr Jean-Marie Jullienne, an academic, researcher, an honorary Colonel of the South African National Defense Force (SANDF), a recipient of the Leonardo Da Vinci Award and former Governor of the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection; and Cholo’s bibliography, titled: “Heeding the call to fight for the Fatherland –The life and struggle of T.T Cholo (Fortune-d Publishing) by also a renowned author and academic, Dr Tlou Setumu, with the foreword by Professor Shadrack Gutto of the University of South Africa, provide a more detailed record of the MK naval unit’s ill-fated military adventure.
The pair and their three colleagues’ record of military exploits on a vessel known as the Aventura, somewhat fudged by fading memory – all are in their late 80s and early 90s – is to receive research support from the Government of Azerbaijan, whose ambassador to South Africa currently, Dr Eikhan Polukhov, has offered in his speech at the said World Maritime Day events at the Xhariep Dam last week..
Dr Polukhov, who attended both the launch of the SAMSA Maritime Heritage initiative on Wednesday as well as the World Maritime Day event on Thursday, also presented the group with gifts symbolic of Azerbaijan’s appreciation of strong relations between that country and South Africa since the latter’s dawn of democracy in 1994.
Meanwhile, at the SAMSA Maritime Heritage Initiative launch event on Wednesday, Adv Mancotywa said the NHC would provide some financial and other resources for the initiative that would support further research into maritime heritage.