East Londoners sceptical about Transnet investment

Tammy Fray and Siphosihle Dyonase

Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) has made numerous declarations regarding intended development at the East London port,  and in June pledged R4.3bn to the port over a seven-year period.

However local businesses and organisations believe this latest commitment will yield as little as the ones before it.

Sea Spirit Fish Market manager Camilla McArthur says Operation Phakamisa, introduced by the TNPA a year ago, pledged R219m for the port but according to McArthur there is little to show for this.

She said TNPA had alluded to the development of the jetty at Latimers Landing and the wharf, but to date nothing had been done in this regard.

Lawrence Haw from the East London Yacht Club believes it is best not to buy into the excitement surrounding the investment “until something actually comes of it” and principle of ERA Sun properties, Penny Lindstrom, says “You know, all the things they seem to do at Transnet don’t really make sense. I am a bit sceptical but it would be nice because we badly need investment into our town.”

The East London Ski-boat Club members say the relationship with TNPA is strained and as a result scepticism about development at the port is high. Earlier in the year, those with leases at the port were informed they had seven days to re-tender their bids at commercial rates in order to keep their rentals. Though TNPA eventually back-pedalled on this, port-based organisations and businesses regard this as evidence of TNPA’s inability to develop the port competently.

TNPA’s corporate affairs manager, Sakhiwo Tetyana says recent appointments of senior managers at TNPA such as the port engineer form part of a strategy to expedite service delivery of pressing concerns such as improving port infrastructure.

According to Siyabulela Mhlaluka, TNPA managing executive for the Central Region, East London is well positioned for the tourism sector and to boost this, part of the R4.3bn will be dedicated to “transforming the port’s real estate portfolio to integrate with the leisure market such as the Latimer’s Landing Waterfront development”.

East London Ski-boat Club chair Graham Kingsley Wilkens, describes TNPA’s preoccupation with tourism at the port as “pie in the sky” and says the focus should remain on developing port infrastructure as currently it is not wide or deep enough to receive large vessels, in turn cutting off the development of the city’s local economy.

According to Kingsley Wilkins, the R4.3bn would best utilised on improving key sites such as the break water wall, the port elevator and railway.

“The port is a small space not meant to be used for tourism stuff, but if they want to develop the tourism market why not look at developing Signal Hill? We need proper port infrastructure to accommodate bigger ships and currently we have no rail route and no sea travel supporting our IDZ and attracting car manufacturers because that is big business.”

He cautions that if port development remained unaddressed, the traffic on the roads between East London, Gqeberha and Transkei would needlessly increase.

Tetyana says the R4.3bn will be invested into the reconstruction of quay 3, extending and deepening the main breakwater entrance, rehabilitating Port View Road, replacing the four graving dock jib cranes, constructing bollard 266A and 267, constructing the port security fence and refurbishing Latimers Landing.

Kingsley Wilkins is hopeful about the possibility of development at the port because of the wealth of jobs it will create within the city, especially for companies that deal with concrete, stone, cement, armour drops, dredging and so forth. For the East London Ski-boat Club, he says improvements at the port will enable more events to be hosted on the Buffalo River which in turn boosts the local economy, especially as the club is the only area left in the country for bottom fishing and the most attractive because of its safe launching site.

BUILDING THE CITY: Transnet National Port Authority has embarked on a seven-year project to invest R4.3bn into East London’s port Picture: TAMMY FRAY


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