Port of Richards Bay Chaos: Ramaphosa visit reinforces leadership vacuum

Issued by Cllr Christo Botha – DA Deputy Mayor City of uMhlathuze
27 Nov 2023 in Press Statements

Transnet’s (TNPA, TPT and TFR) inability to manage its own affairs has caused the City of uMhlathuze and its residents to become hostages of coal exporters, illegal coal stockpiling operators and trucking companies.

In the year to date, more than 500 000 trucks have visited the Port of Richards Bay. Not only is the city covered in coal dust, posing a severe health risk to the residents but the road infrastructure has been destroyed and left the city’s overtime budget for traffic officers completely depleted.

It has become an easy way out for Transnet just to close its gates when its operational capacity fails to handle the large volume of trucks and shift the responsibility to the city to deal with the havoc caused by the thousands of trucks.

The city has issued a letter of demand to Transnet in respect of the money it had to spent to keep traffic officers available 24/7 to manage the flow of trucks ensuring that the residents are protected. Threatening legal action has prompted Minister Pravin Gordhan to request a meeting with the city’s leadership. On Wednesday, 22 November 2023 the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and City Manager met with the Minister at the port and although Gordhan requested Transnet executives to engage with the city’s leadership, he offered no immediate solutions.

However, the Minister was quick to request the municipality suspend the letter of demand. Unless Transnet meet the city’s demand outlined in the Letter of Demand the legal process will NOT be suspended.

On Wednesday, 23 November 2023 President Ramaphosa visited the City of uMhlathuze without his office liaising in any way whatsoever with the city’s leadership. He went straight to the Port of Richards Bay.

Ramaphosa’s visit was clearly not to familiarise himself with the threat the chaos at the port poses to the city and its residents. The only logical explanation why he did not take the time to meet with the city’s leaders is that his visit was intended to protect his own interests.

The President lacked the guts to face the city’s leaders because he did not want to put himself on the spot and be exposed for not having the political will to put an end to the chaos. The President showed a lack of true leadership. Instead, his cowardly behaviour was well noted. In fact, his visit was nothing more than a window dressing exercise.

The time has come to vote the ANC out and to replace it with a capable government. President Ramaphosa’s presidency has been a disappointment from the start. South Africa deserves a president with a backbone and the courage to lead South Africa with integrity and conviction.

The chaotic scenes playing out at the Port of Richards Bay and Durban harbour are clear indications of Transnet’s failures. It further becomes pertinent that tomorrow, 27 November, our federal leader, John Steenhuisen, along with DA Shadow Minister of Public Enterprise, Dr Mimmy Gondwe MP, will be conducting an oversight to unpack the DA’s action to hold the President, the Department of Public Enterprises, and Transnet accountable for decades of failure to maintain and enhance South Africa’s maritime ports to sustain the needs of our trade and logistics economy.

In the interim the city of uMhlathuze is exploring ways to hold Transnet financially liable for the effect it has had on residents, a move the DA fully supports.