Weekly Press Review – 6 November 2017

Transnet is distancing itself from the kickbacks scandal currently rocking the state-owned rail and logistics group. According to the press, the scandal includes allegations that some of its suppliers paid third parties millions of rands in order to win tenders.

Chief executive, Siyabonga Gama said, “These allegations are made against Transnet suppliers, where it is alleged that some of them, such as SAP, McKinsey, CSR and Liebherr-Africa, were paying commissions to third parties after securing contracts with Transnet.

“We have requested these companies to indicate to us if any past or current employees of Transnet requested that they pay any kickbacks to them or any third parties.”

The Hawks arrested two people in connection with abalone poaching and seized R5 million worth of abalone in Brackenfell this week.

According to the press, spokesperson Lloyd Ramovha said that police arrested the suspects at a house doubling as an illegal abalone processing facility.

The suspects appeared in the Kuilsriver magistrates court during the week.

Two more suspects from Caledon were also arrested this week in possession of abalone with a street value of R5 million.

Also making headlines this week was the announcement by seafood group Sea Harvest that the company’s Australian subsidiary, Mareterram, had acquired two mackerel licence packages comprising of an established fishing fleet and support vessels for A$9 million (R53 million).

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Weekly Press Review – 31 October 2017

 Transnet has instituted a group-wide investigation into its contracts and suppliers amid the rampant allegations of rent seeking and kickbacks at state-owned companies.

 According to the press, chief executive Siyabonga Gama said that the company was dealing with allegations of wrong-doing in its contracts, insisting that the problem was not about Transnet governance processes or integrity, but about suppliers.

According to the press this week, there is a growing optimism about the potential of Africa’s oil and gas development, given the sustained increase in crude oil prices.

Speaking at the open session of the 24th Africa Oil Week conference, held in Cape Town last week, Energy Minister David Mahlobo said, “This bodes well for many of the continent’s economies that had suffered when there was a downturn in commodity prices.”

Also making headlines this week is a statement from Premier Fishing and Brands saying that it would continue to grow its business both organically and through acquisitions in the future as it sought to diversify its portfolio.

“We will continue to grow our business organically and by acquisition, as well as focus on the expansion of our product basket to meet our customer’s demands,” said chief executive Samir Saban.

According to the press, despite the fishing season officially beginning on October 1, the delegated authority, Siphokazi Ndundane, has yet to determine the global rock lobster total allowable catch (TAC) for the commercial offshore and near-shore, small scale and recreational sub-sectors.

The Collective representing thousands of small-scale fishers from coastal near-shore fishing sectors says that the system used to allocate West Coast rock lobster fishing rights remains skewed and does not benefit small-scale and near-shore fishers.

Spokesperson for the fishers, Pedro Garcia, says, “When they eventually finalise the allocation for the TAC for the rock lobster, it will be percentages and not kilos. This will not address the imbalances in a system that still only caters for the commercial companies and keeps the indigenous and traditional fishers marginalised.”

Garcia added that the collective still felt that the best solution at this point would be to suspend the current allocations and implement interim relief for a period of three years.

Weekly Press Review – 21 August 2017

South Africa’s weak economy is impacting those renting Transnet sites in the country’s eight commercial harbours.

According to the press tenants of Transnet sites have stated that if the economy continues on its current path they will have no choice but to renegotiate their contracts or simply return their sites to Transnet.

At present TNPA have 750 tenants and 90 cargo operators renting within the major harbours.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has sent out a plea to ask concerns citizens who cut floating buoys from fishing gear, with the intention of removing the gear in which whales and other marine mammals may become entangled, to please be aware that they may be doing more harm than good.

The department explains, “The buoys are markers which mark the ends of lines of fishing gear lying along the sea floor. Removing the floating buoys may result in slower times to find and retrieve the fishing gear by fishers, thus increasing the opportunity for entanglement of whales and other marine mammals.”

Even more dangerous is that once the buoys are removed, fishers are no longer able to find and retrieve the lines of fishing gear. These lines then continue to engage in “ghost fishing” – meaning that they continue to entrap marine creatures over time.

The NSRI was called into action this weekend as it rescued a whale entangled off the coast of Kleinmond.

According to the press, Dawie Malan and his wife reported the incident and the 12m whale was discover approximately 50m offshore entangled in rope and with a buoy attached to its tail. The whale was freed and swam away unharmed.

Weekly Press Review – 14 August 2017

JSE-listed Sea Harvest has acquired a new freezer trawler from listed Icelandic fishing company, HB Grandi. According to the press, the vessel, the MV Therney, was built in Sterkoder yard in Norway.

The group said that there are currently three Sterkoder class vessels in South Africa, two owned by Irvin & Johnson, and one acquired by Sea Harvest in 2014.

Sea Harvest has invested more that R300 million over the past three years in vessel acquisition and factory upgrades to create a world-class asset base.  After listing, the company said that it wanted to pursue growth organically and through acquisitions, in an effort to position itself as a global seafood producer.

In an interview with the Sunday Times this week, Cape Town mayor, Patricia De Lille said that in attempt to deal with the water crisis currently facing the Western Cape, some 250 million litres will come from desalination projects. As this infrastructure is not yet in place, a desalination boat, to be parked at sea, is an option on the table in the interim.

Importers, exporters and shipping lines may be faced with an 8 or 9 percent fee increase to use South African harbours.

According to the press, Transnet is holding public hearings in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban to discuss the National Port Authority’s tariff application for 2018/19.

Increasing the availability of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) to South Africa, Sunrise Energy officially launched the R1,2 billion LPG plant near Saldanha Bay this week.

According to the press, the first cargo of LPG was received in May from a LPG vessel and William Bopape, plant manager, said that the import point has been extremely busy ever since.

Sailing clubs claim that they are being muscled off government owned land.

According to the press, South African Sailing says that clubs in Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Mossel Bay and East London are in the midst of legal action over new lease agreements or are facing eviction or stringent new terms.

The organisation claims that steep rental increases and diminished access to water are threatening development programmes that produce top black sailors.

Transnet National Ports Authority has denied targeting sports clubs, but declined to comment on sub judice matters.

Marine scientists and conservationists have warned that the annual sardine run in Kwazulu Natal could be under threat from both climate change and the impact of fishing.

According to the press, the sardine run generates an estimated R500 million in tourism for the Kwazulu-Natal South Coast and is being impacted by increased ocean temperatures.

Marine conservationist, Lesley Rochat says, “What we do know for certain … is that the world’s oceans are undergoing rapid and regionally specific warming as a result of climate change.”

“Climate change must be addressed in order to preserve marine life, including the sardines,” says Rochat.

Transnet and the Game of Thrones

Yesterday the Minister of Transport, Joe Maswanganyi, toured the Port of Durban with the Chief Executive of Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) ahead of the official launch of the Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy. There’s nothing altogether strange about that – but I did feel like I had missed a crucial episode of The Game of Thrones.

Richard Vallihu, who less than a month ago revealed the new TNPA building at the Port of Ngqura, was nowhere to be seen. Instead it was Shulami Qalinge that stepped up to the title of CE at yesterday’s proceedings.

It seems that there has been a succession to the title in the few weeks since the unveiling in the Eastern Cape, but with none of the usual official announcements from the State Owned Entity, the Department of Public Enterprises or even a Cabinet congratulatory notice. Why?

Minister Maswanganyi made it clear last night that the shift to promote women leaders in the maritime space was welcomed by his Department and Qalinge appears to come to the position with good and relevant experience within the logistics sector and Transnet.

TNPA is not usually shy with appointment announcements, but Qalinge seems to have flown in under the radar and ousted Vallihu who’s appointment was certainly officially announced in 2015 when he took over following the sudden departure of Tau Morwe.

Industry sources say that they too are surprised at the seeming secrecy around the appointment and report that news spread to them via the grapevine and not through official Transnet channels.

Indeed Vallihu is still listed in the position on the TNPA website and I am left questioning the validity of my own eye-witness account of yesterday’s proceedings as I scour TNPA as well as government statements for confirmation of the episode I seem to have missed.

Nevertheless, welcome aboard Ms Shulami Qalinge and may your time in the position help steer the Port Authority forward.

Weekly Press Review – 27 March 2017

PetroSA has made headlines again this week. According to the press the state-owned oil company is set to suffer a projected devaluation of assets of R1.1 billion this financial year, in addition to the R14.5 billion in impairment it suffered in the 2014/15 financial year.

The PetroSA board, however, managed to escape an attempt to have it dissolved. A call was made to Minister of Energy Tina Joemat-Pettersson to fire the entire board.

Committee member, Motswaledi Matlala said, “On behalf of the committee I request of the minister: let’s fire the board and get new people who are serious about the lives of the people of this county.”

Interim board chairman, Bhekabantu Ngubane responded by saying that it would be sad day if the board were fired.

Adding to the company’s woes it was also reported in the press that an inexplicable decision by executives at the embattled oil company to feed oil into the state-of-the-art gas-to-liquid facility at Mossel Bay has led to a break down of the refinery, resulting in a two week shutdown and a R500 million loss in revenue.

Transnet has made headlines this week with parliament calling for a forensic investigation into Transnet and the Passenger Rail Agency’s multi-billion rand locomotive contracts.

A display commemorating the black South African troops who lost their lives aboard the SS Mendi in 1917 is currently open at the Centre for African Studies at the University of Cape Town.

According to the press the centre will also be hosting a multi-discipline conference focusing on the role that the soldiers aboard the SS Mendi played in the greater struggle for human rights and human dignity.

The SA Navy will just have to do more with less. That was the message delivered by Vice Admiral Mosuwa Hlongwana, Head of the SA Navy, in Simon’s Town this week.

According to the press the navy is experiencing more challenges, but with far less funding. Vice Admiral Hlongwana also stated that it is important to remember that the navy has 3,000km of coastline to patrol and traditional concepts would have to be challenged in driving the navy into the future.

The annual SA Navy Festival, in conjunction with Armscor, took place at East Dockyard in Simon’s Town last weekend. According to the press the event afforded the public the opportunity to tour naval ships and submarines, as well as view multi-capacity anti-piracy demonstrations.

Weekly Press Review – 23 January 2017

Grindrod Asset Management this week announced plans for a deal that would culminate in Infinitus Holdings gaining a 76 percent stake in Grindrod.

According to the press Infinitus is focused on high-growth businesses in the consumer, industrial and financial services sector.

Through its subsidiary GFS Holdings, Grindrod will exchange its entire Grindrod Asset Management for Infinitus shares.

GFS managing director, David Polkinghorne, said, “Grindrod is changing the way it holds its interest. This is an important step to free up the business to develop its own identity as Bridge Fund Managers pursue sensible growth opportunities while retaining its loyal client base. Grindrod will continue to support the business in every way.”

Also making headlines this week is the news that Transnet has initiated an investigation into complaints regarding the management of the training programme at its Marine School of Excellence.

According to a statement by Transnet executive head, Siyabonga Gama, the complaints are focused mainly on the issues of access to practical training and the duration of the programme.

Transnet has made a R7.7 billion investment in training over the next decade and with hopes to expand the maritime training academy.