The Road Freight Association (RFA), as the largest representative of road freight operators (companies) in South Africa, is involved in the Road Transport (02) and Security (07) Workstreams of the National Logistics Crisis Committee (NLCC).

The RFA is involved in the discussions relating to the challenges facing logistics in general, but specifically in those discussions which affect road freight (ports, rail, intermodal and cargo specific operations of TRANSNET and its affiliated sub-divisions). The current state of affairs in the ports and rail network did not “suddenly” happen in the last two weeks – indeed, even TRANSNET is noting that specific issues at Richards Bay happened over two years ago.

The RFA is steadfast in its opinion that (a) the deterioration of our ports and rail has been a slow, continued process over at least 10 years, and (b) the management of TRANSNET (and its full subsidiaries) have been fully aware of the challenges, and continuously informed of these, by both structures within their respective organisations and the private sector.

Nothing was done to counter this – neither to reverse, nor hold the decline. The executives, management and Ministers who have ”led'” Public Enterprises (state assets and management thereof) and the various subsidiaries of TRANSNET, are the ones to blame.

The NLCC seeks to reverse decay, corruption, and collapse. This will be a lengthy process and there is very little trust or faith left in those who allowed the collapse under their watch, to now suddenly become the “saviours”. Plans and projects are emanating from the NLCC – but the knowing concern that these are just (as in so many other instances), just talk, remains in the minds of many. Transport, logistics, market related activities, running efficient and reliable supply chains and ensuring good competition to ensure growth and sustainability are the purview (ambit) of private business. The private sector needs to be given far more control over the failing and lethargic state-owned entities that are throttling the economy.

Now that the various state owned entities (SOEs) are feeling the pressure, suddenly “short-term” plans are being put into place to “ramp up operations”. Why wasn’t that done many years ago? A long road lies ahead of South Africa in terms of bringing ports and rail infrastructure back to a position of efficiency. We need the private sector to drive and control the nursing back to life of our vital supply chain infrastructure and nodal points.

Issued by Gavin Kelly, the Chief Executive Officer of the Road Freight Association