A possible Chinese takeover of the naval dockyard in Simon’s Town has made headlines this week. The navy is facing an internal revolt amid the possibility that China may soon build vessels inside South Africa’s naval headquarters.
An Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between state-owned defense equipment firm Denel and China’s Poly Technologies resulting in a large investment by the Chinese firm in the Simon’s Town facility in return for boatbuilding business.
Poly Technologies is Denel’s bid partner in two navy tenders: Project Biro and Hotel; and there is widespread unhappiness over irregularities relating to these deals, including a long delay in announcing the winning bidders. The question being asked is why Denel is being accommodated when they have absolutely no maritime experience?
Concerns about political interference have surfaced in a memo circulating in the naval community. One of the issues raised states: “Denel’s task is to manage the dockyard and maintain the ships of the fleet, not to build ships without a shipbuilding yard of their own and use a national facility like Simon’s Town naval dockyard instead.”
Poly Technologies have offered no comment and Department of Defense spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said the department was not aware of any concerns.
The Cape Times ran a feature this week entitled: Maritime –SA’s new gold. Amongst the issues addressed were the new business opportunities available in South African aquaculture, how bilateral relations are advancing the Blue Economy and how South Africa is the new gate way to the Antarctic, as the only African country with a scientific base in Antarctica.