Mbalula beats Phakisa drum in Durban as Sandock Austral says more can be done


Indications are government is aiming to put some momentum into its oceans economy project, Operation Phakisa, with the transport minister today (Monday, 24 January) hosting “a key maritime stakeholder consultation session” in Durban.

In addition to the “consultation session”, Fikile Mbalula and an entourage, including media, were due to visit port of Durban-based Dormac Marine and Engineering.

A Department of Transport statement has it the east coast port city gathering will highlight the contribution made by Mbalula’s department to the port infrastructure programme “as part of the economic recovery plan under Operation Phakisa”. He is scheduled to provide an update on Phakisa government priorities relating to growing the oceans economy and the Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy (CMTP). This reportedly calls for “transformation of the maritime industry by creating a nurturing environment for entrepreneurs with skills in the composite industry to develop and grow own businesses”.

Among those expected to attend are “political principals responsible for various mandates”, senior executives from Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) as well company executives and port users.

The minister, according to the statement, will lead discussions to encourage investment in construction of “new world class infrastructure and refurbish existing port facilities”. These investments are expected to generate substantial economic growth and development as well as create sustainable employment opportunities in the maritime sector and augment education and skills development in local communities.

Mbalula’s visit to the Port of Durban is encouraging but more can be done to unlock the true potential of Operation Phakisa, said Prasheen Maharaj, CEO of Sandock Austral. The head of one of Africa’s leading shipbuilding and repair companies believes getting the private sector to lead the initiative is key to its success.

“The Minister’s visit is long overdue. The Maritime Industry has become the orphan child of the South African Economy although it is the backbone of our International Trade,” he said.

“With a fast declining economy and South Africa quickly losing its position as the leading maritime hub on the continent, the Minister’s visit signals an acknowledgment of the dire state of the maritime industry and is taking a leadership position in order to arrest the further decline in the Industry. Being on the ground shows that he wants to hear directly from the affected stakeholders and not just from government entities,” Maharaj said.

The Minister’s presence on the ground gave the maritime industry the opportunity to engage directly with him, Maharaj added, which enabled stakeholders to hear first-hand on what progress has been made the challenges the industry continues to face and most importantly to listen to suggestions as to how these challenges can be overcome in order to reach the goals and objectives encapsulated in the Operation Phakisa Oceans Economy Master Plan.

The government’s Operation Phakisa focuses on unlocking the economic potential of South Africa’s oceans, which could contribute up to R177 billion to the GDP by 2033 and between 800 000 and 1 million direct jobs

“Every year since 2014 we have been hoping that it was going to be the year that Operation Phakisa would gain momentum and deliver some tangible outcomes,” the CEO of the Durban based Sandock Austral Shipyards said.

“It was, after all, based on the ‘Big Fast Results’ approach adopted from Malaysia. However progress has been frustratingly slow. My personal opinion is that Operation Phakisa as a tripartite political leadership structure has failed to find each other. The Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism is Head of Operation Phakisa Oceans Economy.

“The biggest enabler of Operation Phakisa is Transnet which reports to the Minister of Public Enterprises. All of the Oceans Economy Transport Policies lie with the Minister of Transport. “They are obviously self-interested in their own portfolios and have thus failed to find synergy and alignment. Secondly, at an implementation level, Operation Phakisa is led almost exclusively by the Government with input from the Private Sector. If one really wants to achieve ‘Big Fast Results’, then the Private Sector must lead it in consultation and support from the Government,” Maharaj said.