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'Heads must roll': Ramaphosa cracks the whip on trucks, Transnet crisis

Amanda Khoza Presidency reporter
President Cyril Ramaphosa said heads must roll in the crisis that saw an unprecedented truck congestion on KwaZulu-Natal's N2 highway to enter the Richards Bay port.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said heads must roll in the crisis that saw an unprecedented truck congestion on KwaZulu-Natal's N2 highway to enter the Richards Bay port.
Image: GCIS.

Those responsible for the impasse which led to an unprecedented truck congestion on KwaZulu-Natal's N2 highway to enter the Richards Bay port must he held accountable. 

This is what President Cyril Ramaphosa told journalists after a visit to the port to assess the challenges plaguing Transnet in northern KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday.

“Consequence management is obviously going to be the order of the day. Accountability is going to be top of the issues that we have to deal with and we are now involved in a process where we are looking at the capabilities of the people who are working for our state-owned enterprise,” said Ramaphosa. 

Flanked by public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan and KwaZulu-Natal premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube, Ramaphosa visited Richards Bay after truck drivers were unable to gain access into the port due to several challenges.  

The Sunday Times reported that failing ports, congested roads and the collapse of Transnet were dealing a death blow to the economy as vital exports were being held up on blocked roads with further delays at dilapidated ports now rated among the worst in Africa. 

Ramaphosa said a full diagnosis has been done on the challenges faced by Transnet and “heads must roll for the plethora” of challenges that the state-owned entity finds itself in.

He said he was confident that the backlog would be cleared soon. 

“The trucks, for as long as they are still on the roads, will be coming in. In the end we want the trucks off the roads, [we] want the products that have to be exported on rail and we are working towards that plan.”  

He said government is planning on investing R160bn in the precinct and Transnet has embraced working with the private sector.  

“The private sector is going to play a critical role through either concession and cooperation on a number of nodes on this precinct where they, together with Transnet, will be able to run certain aspects of the operations that take place here.” 

Ramaphosa said: “Much as we are having problems and challenges, I do believe that through the diagnostic process that Transnet has gone through, we are going to step up. 

"I have made it clear to the management that I’d like to see all the problems solved by early next year and we must be demonstrating that we are processing trucks as quickly as possible.”  

He said government is “not going to let sleeping dogs lie”, and admitted that it has taken time to address the matter.

“A diagnostic process had to take place and some of the challenges that we are dealing with have been in the making for quite a while, and some were part of the state capture process that we have been through. We are now getting into top gear and we are going to resolve this problem.”

Ramaphosa said topping the list of issues that need to be resolved is ensuring that trucks  that are standing for days are dealt with and that the ships on water are processed.

"That is the immediate problem that has to be resolved." 

To manage the truck backlog, Ramaphosa said he was told that trucks would be brought into the port precinct where they will be processed.  

“The minister and I have got evidence that work is being done but obviously we want to see more work ... We have made it clear to the management that the incompetence and lack of action that we have seen here must be a matter that is dealt with, with immediate effect, and I do believe that it will be dealt with.” 

He said a number of factors contributed to the collapse of the ports.  

“The lack of maintenance of locomotives and not working and listening closely to what our customers had to say. It was a plethora of issues that got us to where we are but the important thing is that we have done the full diagnostic and how do we now move forward.” 

He said those who played a role must be held accountable.  

Gordhan said the process of filling critical vacant positions in Transnet is underway. “Early in the new year, we are going to have those gaps filled.” 

He said government has a good working relationship with the uMhlathuze Municipality and “in about two months there will be change in terms of what has been happening here.”  

Dube-Ncube added that it was in the interest of the country for the impasse to be resolved.  

“We are confident that we are going to turn the situation around. The way that things have been happening have been problematic, but we are happy to hear that a lot of the goods will now be moving to the goods trains, which is going to relieve the pressure off our roads.”  


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