Infrastructural improvements and progress on the port performance front were highlighted in President Cyril Ramaphosa's latest State of the Nation Address (Sona), yet they are key aspects of promises made in Sona 2023 that remain undelivered.
Delivering his head-of-state report-back to Parliament on Thursday night, Ramaphosa said: “We have laid a foundation for growth through far-reaching economic reforms, an ambitious investment drive, and an infrastructure programme that is starting to yield results.”
As for the country’s flagging ports, he said of the state-owned logistics utility: “Transnet has appointed an international terminal operator to help expand and improve its largest terminal at the Port of Durban.”
Yet last year Ramaphosa said: “Transnet and private sector companies will conclude partnerships at the Durban and Ngqura container terminals to enable new investments in our ports.”
According to factual verification watchdog Africa Check, it’s not the only “broken promise” from Sona ’23 that casts doubt over the sincerity of the President’s industry utterances from this week’s Sona.
Important logistical linkages of the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road (N2WCTR) that Ramaphosa said last year would be completed, remain under construction.
In the run-up to this week’s address, Africa Check posted on its website that “Ramaphosa failed to deliver on infrastructure promises, as plans to develop the ports of Durban and Ngqura are delayed, as is the completion of the Msikaba and Mtentu bridges in Eastern Cape province”.
Although the Port of Durban has announced International Container Terminal Services International as a private-sector partner to help manage the port, the process seems to have stalled amid threats by unionists against privatisation of a state-owned entity.
As for the Port of Ngqura, no expression of interest has been received, despite Ramaphosa saying last year that it would’ve been concluded by now.
Africa Check has found that “there were no bids received for Ngqura Container Terminal (NCT), as bidders could not guarantee volume growth.
“Transnet is reviewing options on how to get the NCT to full utilisation.”
Looking at the N2WCTR, Africa Check revealed that the South Africa National Road Agency Limited had probably been the basis for Ramaphosa believing that the bridges would’ve been completed by the end of last year.
According to Laurence Savage, project director for the Concor-MECSA Construction Joint Venture contracted to the project, the commitment for completion of the bridge is around April 2025, the watchdog says.
“All four of the anchor blocks, which are 21,000 tons of concrete each, are complete. All of the auxiliary tributary structures are complete and the pylons are at about 85 metres at the moment, of 127. We’re installing the cable inserts at the moment,” Savage said.
In hindsight, it stands to reason why Ramaphosa, in this week’s Sona, refrained from actual detail, preferring vague references to port performance progress and infrastructural improvements.
Given the “broken promises” of Sona ’23, undertakings that were in any event based on inaccurate information to start with, Ramaphosa’s assurances on February 8 seem to be yet more lip service.