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New names for maritime related ministries
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New names for maritime related ministries

South African cabinet announcement

SOUTH AFRICA: The much-anticipated announcement of the new South African cabinet following May’s election has seen the instatement of new names at the helm of the ministries related to governing the country’s maritime sectors. Editor, Colleen Jacka, looks at how some of these changes may impact on maritime structures and government priorities.

While some proponents of the maritime industry have called for a single maritime ministry, the current cabinet has not produced such an entity. The governance and oversight of the ocean economy will, therefore, remain somewhat fragmented across several departments.

The Ministry of Public Enterprises has been removed from the cabinet. According to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s statement, the “relevant public enterprises will be located in the Presidency during the process of implementing a new shareholder model.”

This means that Transnet and its divisions including Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) will be subjected to some uncertainty in terms of oversight during this period.

It is debatable how this will impact on current initiatives to address port reform in the country. Speaking at the recent Port Consultative Committee (PCC) roadshows for port users, Lebohang Ntwampe, Transport Economist at the now defunct Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), pledged to work more closely with the DoT to strengthen the regulatory framework.

He also committed to deploying DPE people to sit within the PCC structures in a bid to keep the relevant ministers focus on port issues.

Port users will be seeking swift action from the new governing administration on issues such as the corporatisation of TNPA as well as continued focus on improving port efficiencies across all of TNPA’s eight commercial ports. And, it will be worthwhile tracking how the government intends to ensure the necessary oversight without the DPE.

Denel and Alexxkor will also be impacted by the dissolution of the ministry.

Department of Transport

The appointment of Barbara Creecy as the Minister of Transport (DoT) will probably elicit mixed reviews. Considered the pivotal government department for the maritime industry, the DoT has lost Sindisiwe Lydia Chikunga to the Department of Women, Youth and People with Disabilities.

Chikunga, who served first as the Deputy Minister of Transport before becoming the Minister of Transport was widely seen as someone who had made the effort to engage more substantively with the maritime industry than recent transport ministers – especially during her time as Deputy Minister.

Creecy, however, does come into the position with a background as the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment where she was tasked with overseeing the development of the Ocean Economy Masterplan. This will have provided her with a solid background knowledge of the challenges that currently face the various sectors.

While her tenure at the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) was linked to the controversial delays in the Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP), it will have prepared her for another ministry with significant portfolios vying for attention.

The question, of course, will be whether Creecy will find herself hijacked by the road transport sector as the new Minister of Transport or whether she will be able to divert enough attention towards maritime transport related issues.

Her deputy, Mkhuleko Hlengwa is a member of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and past chairman of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA). Speaking in an interview on SABC News after the announcement, he stressed the importance of growing the economy and improving service delivery within the framework of teamwork.  

It will be interesting to see whether the oversight for Transnet and its transport related sub-divisions moves to become the responsibility of the DoT and how this will impact on the structure of the department and its branches.

The DoT’s maritime branch is currently responsible for all shipping and maritime related matters, which includes the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) as well as the Ports Regulator of South Africa (PRSA).

We already know that the PRSA is to be merged into a single Transport Economic Regulator and the Economic Regulation of Transport Bill was signed last month to move this initiative forward.

Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

The DFFE will now be led by Dion George of the Democratic Alliance as the minister with two deputy ministers, Narend Singh and Bernice Swarts. The industry will be hoping to see them pick up the pace of finalising the process to establish a workable and relevant Oceans Economy Masterplan.

George was a Member of Parliament from 2008 to May 2015 and again from 2018.  Most recently he served as a member of the Standing Committee on Finance and Shadow Minister for Finance where he oversaw the performance of the National Treasury, Revenue Services and other public institutions, including the Public Investment Corporation and Financial Sector Conduct Authority.

His apparent strength in governance and leadership will be welcomed within a department that requires such resources and that currently faces ongoing litigation from the fisheries sector as well as allegations of corruption within its ranks.

The awarding of the contract to manage the SA Agulhas II and the Algoa will no doubt also be on the list of priorities faced by the new leadership. The tender was re-issued in April this year after being cancelled to remove the stipulation that made it mandatory for the appointed service provider to be registered with the South African Association of Ship Owners and Agents (SAASOA).

Deputy Minister, Singh, who is a member of the IFP, has been a part of the KwaZulu Natal provincial government and faced a public scandal following an indiscretion in 2006 that saw him resign as the province’s Minister of Arts Culture and Tourism.

The second deputy, Swarts, is a member of the African National Congress (ANC) and served most recently as the Deputy Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure. In news stories ahead of the elections, allegations against Swarts implied that she had pocketed donations made by a businessman to the ANC more than a decade ago. Follow-up articles in May this year noted that the man had been repaid the R500,000 donation by an anonymous donor.

FishSA officially welcomed the new minister this morning issuing a statement saying that they were eager to work with him and offer their support in an "effort to grow the industry, attract investment, protect jobs and create an enabling environment for sustainable fisheries".

A separate ministry for mineral and petroleum resources

Another notable change is the establishment of a separate Ministry of Mineral and Petroleum Resources that will be headed up by Gwede Mantashe as the Minister and Judith Nemadzinga-Tshabalala as the Deputy Minister.

Mantashe is certainly no stranger to South African politics and was the previous Minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs. Nemadzinga-Tshabalala joins the department after serving as the Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation since March last year.

They will be faced with balancing the opportunity represented by the offshore oil and gas industry with environmental concerns. In 2022, the former Department of Mineral Resources and Energy Affair’s exploration rights that were granted to Impact Africa and Shell were deemed unlawful by the Eastern Cape High Court. This followed pressure from South African citizens and environmental organisations to stop seismic surveys along the Wild Coast.

The court ruling has spurred similar action since then and petitions calling on citizens to get behind calling a halt to current and future surveys will be impacted by this precedent making it challenging to attract international investors in this sector.

But Gwede himself, is seen as a potential detractor for investment in the sector – having made public statements about his reluctance to grant exploration and drilling rights to Shell following their exit from its downstream operations.

A statement issued by the Democratic Alliance last month outlined these concerns; “South Africa’s great oil and gas potential remains a dream on paper until oil majors commit huge amounts of money to exploration. That is less likely while Mantashe feels he can openly threaten those he disagrees with. He should be rolling out the red carpet to persuade them to invest, because that investment will ensure employment and revenue growth, and jobs and better lives for South Africans.”

There are other ministries that weigh in on maritime-related issues including those relating to training and infrastructure development, but all eyes will be on these pivotal departments as the new ministers begin their first 100 days in office.

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