Transnet: SMMEs want to get on board
● Nafcoc pitches for more work and opportunities for small businesses at engagement session with parastatal
Transnet must consider opening up channels for SMMEs and involve the community in its projects if it wants to meet the requirements of the country’s economic sector.
That was one of the suggestions made by the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc) at a Transnet engagement session held at the Port of Ngqura on Thursday.
The state-owned enterprise is looking to reposition itself in a manner that makes it more customer-centred.
Acting Transnet group chief executive Tau Morwe said while the parastatal had invested billions into various projects, little had been achieved in terms of infrastructure.
Morwe said much of the world was “miles ahead” of SA in terms of transport.
“We need to address the issue of operational performance,” he said.
“The state of the rail network has worsened over time.
“We need to begin shifting and rethinking.
“There are other models used in the world that clearly show that it is possible for other stakeholders, other than the state, to be partners.”
Morwe said that discussions around rail reform were necessary to ensure that Transnet was able to meet the requirements of the business community.
“Do we as Transnet have adequate capacity to do what the economy requires or is it high time to begin bringing in partners?
“If you look at agricultural products, we are doing quite poorly because most of the time we are still on the road.
“If you find yourself on the N3 between 2am and 5am, there are a number of trucks on the road – it’s cargo that ought to be on rail.
“We need to engage more with logistics providers and see where they can assist in intensifying some of the rail lines.”
Nafcoc executive committee member Lwandiso Mpetsheni suggested that Transnet open up channels through which small businesses could operate affordably.
Mpetsheni said rates at Transnet Properties’ locations were largely unaffordable for small business owners.
“We have been looking for a property for our small manufacturing company and we tried to look for space at Transnet Properties.
“But the rates that they have are rates for big companies. I want to make a plea to Transnet that they should consider creating spaces and making them available to small business owners at affordable rates, rather than at the uniform rates that they charge large companies,” Mpetsheni said.
“At present, we are forced to operate these businesses within our garages at home and within spaces that are not really conducive to what we need to manufacture.”
Morwe agreed that for Transnet to promote small entities, new rules would need to be put in place specifically for small business operations.
“Not only in property, just as long as they agree that when they get big, they move away from the rules of the small business,” Morwe said.
Nafcoc regional general secretary Mandla Msizi said it wanted to be part of the decision-making process on Transnet’s major projects such as the waterfront development and the relocation of the manganese and tank farm site.
“The manganese is being moved from town [Port of Port Elizabeth] to the Port of Ngqura,” he said.
“Two months ago, we were promised that as early as November we would be engaged as stakeholders.
“We sent a number of requests to say to the port managers that ‘we are here’ and ‘we want to know what the role of local business people will be when that project comes’,” Msizi said.
“As Nafcoc we would like to be part of the decision-making going forward, as opposed to only bringing our points once the projects have been implemented,” he said.
But Transnet National Ports Authority CEO Shulami Qalinge said Transnet had experienced intimidation from the local community in terms of the opportunities afforded by the two ports. “The people who will be given the opportunities will be the people that meet the requirements.
“When you interfere with what we are trying to do, it’s then that we will have to look at people outside of this community, even though as Transnet that is not what we would like to do,” she said.
Qalinge said the companies that had won the tenders – such as the Oil Tanking Grindrod Calulo Holdings tank farm site – had contractual obligations in terms of supplier development.
“They then have to report back in terms of the progress they have made.
“My plea is that we work together, co-operate and collaborate,” she said.
“These are major projects, we are talking about billions of rands that we intend to spend in between these two ports and there will be more developments coming as well.”
Transnet Freight Rail general manager Zeph Ndlovu said the fact that much of the transport sector was reliant on roads, was having adverse effects on maintenance costs for the department of transport as well as taxpayers.
“The migration back from road to rail is a must.
“We also have a responsibility to reduce the carbon footprint,” Ndlovu said.
BACK ON TRACK: Transnet is working on reviving SA’s rail network, including in Port Elizabeth harbour, shown here