What will it take for SA to ensure that we are able to trade and take advantage of the new growth that is taking place on the African continent?
Our ultimate objective is to engineer the migration from road to the rail of goods. We are making our ports the interaction point between us and international trade, but with more efficient, world-class equipment and a world-class service in our ports.
“We want to ensure that goods can easily enter and leave South Africa via our pipeline in order to reduce the amount of time, emissions and inefficiency when bringing liquid fuels from Durban, where they enter our country, and to Gauteng, where petrol is refined,” he says.
Not only will the MDS improve the country’s infrastructure, but it will also massively create jobs. Transnet and its related industries in the South African economy is currently employing about 350 000 people. They plan on adding at least 230 000 new jobs across the country with the R300 billion allocated to the project in the next seven years.
“At the moment Transnet employs 60 000 people and over the next seven year period we will employ an additional 15 000 people. We hope to create about 30 000 new jobs in the related industries in South Africa. We have had our first year of the MDS, and in that first year our capital expenditure was R27 billion. From March 2012 until March 2013, we estimate that economy-wide, we created about 28 000 jobs. A total of 4 000 jobs were created directly at Transnet in the first year of the MDS,” Brian Molefe explains.
Transnet also plans on increasing iron ore exports from 53 million tons per annum to 82.5 million tons per annum.
Most importantly the MDS will have a huge impact on the transport infrastructure. There will be massive development in the Waterberg area to facilitate movement to the new coal reserves that have been discovered there. And the organisation also plans to strengthen the existing railway lines.
New link via Swaziland
The current configuration of the coal from Mpumalanga to Richards Bay will also be enhanced by much better railway lines and equipment, and there will be a new link via Swaziland that will be strengthened to improve the general freight and coal capacity.
“We will increase the capacity of the Sishen-Saldanha line for iron ore as well as manganese in the port of Ngqura in the Eastern Cape. And we will also finalise and finish the building of the Port of Ngqura. We are going to ensure we make major improvements to virtually all our ports in the next seven years, including new equipment for the port of Durban,” he says.
The Durban Container Terminal is one of the largest in the southern hemisphere and Molefe hopes through providing equipment and better service there will be less congestion.
Every division within Transnet has a strong part to play in the MDS and the rail division will be the biggest, accounting for about 50% of Transnet’s turnover. The rail division has been allocated 50 to 55% of the R300 billion.
“A big chunk will go towards the ports, buying new equipment, strengthening the quay walls, deepening the berths, ensuring that we have a more efficient port system and then finalising the new multi-product pipeline.
“The pipeline from Durban to Johannesburg is already in the ground (stretching 566 kilometres) and we are now looking at the two terminals. These will be finalised this year,” he explains.
Ultimately the MDS will improve reliability and operating efficiency and Molefe believes the competitiveness of any country is a function of the infrastructure available, especially the supply-chain infrastructure.
He therefore notes that the new plans will also go a long way to improving the competitiveness of the South African economy if they get it right.
“The real reason why people will be using rail instead of road, is because it’s cheaper. In the past our rail services and our services as a company have not been reliable. In the future we are going to have a particular focus on that, improving efficiencies as well as communicating to our valued customers what is happening to their goods.
“In other words we will be communicating more effectively with our clients. Ultimately better equipment and infrastructure will be a strong element of the MDS.”
It is also important to note that infrastructure development is part of the National Development Plan. “Improvement of infrastructure is part of what the National Development Plan identifies as critical, so through contributing to building a stronger infrastructure, Transnet is working directly in line with the country’s National Development Plan.”
Molefe believes the long term benefits of the MDS will be immense. “Over the next 30 to 40 years we will have deployed assets in the freight-logistics system that are going to go a long way in ensuring that the country is able to trade and take advantage of the new growth that is currently taking place on the African continent. This will also ensure we make our mark as a member of Brics through increasing trade and making it possible for South Africa to trade more efficiently,” he explains.
Through his interesting career Molefe has had several highly significant personal highlights. He was among others part of the National Treasury that issued a $1.25 billion single deal which at the time was the biggest bond that had been issued by South Africa.
“Last year Transnet issued its biggest bond, which was a billion dollars. The passage of the conversion of the Public Investments Commissioners, into the Public Investment Corporation, which is a professional asset manager rather than just a commission as it was before, was also a major highlight because it enabled us to grow assets quite rapidly in the seven years,” he explains.
Molefe says the various influential leaders he has interacted with have had a significant impact on him.
“I have worked in government under all the post-apartheid presidents since 1994. I met President Mandela, as the leader of the ANC, before 1994, but also as President of South Africa. Former President Mbeki was outstanding and so is President Zuma. I have also worked with Minister Manuel, who has been a great inspiration, a great doer of things. He is a visionary with regard to the fiscus and how it has to be managed. I believe Manuel will probably go down in history as the person who revolutionised fiscal management,” he explains.
Molefe also reserves special praise for Public Enterprises Minister, Malusi Gigaba, who he describes as young, hands on and involved and interested in what is happening.
“He is actually the person who is making all of this possible, because it is not difficult to get approvals from him. His attitude is ‘let’s just get on with it’, which is very helpful, because sometimes you can be frustrated, even if you have ideas that might not work without the adequate support system,” Molefe told Leadership magazine.
On business principles Molefe believes authenticity is the most important aspect. “A lot of people forget to become authentic and real. It is very easy to tell if a person is authentic or not. Some people want to do things just for show, while others want to do things because they actually believe that those things should be done in the way they are being done. We do not do things for show around here. We are very real about the challenges we are confronted with and the solutions required for those challenges. We have no time for show business. So authenticity for me is very critical in leadership.
“Visionary leadership is also absolutely essential. Leaders are peddlers of hope. The most important job of a leader is to give people hope. Leaders who do that very well, who say to people; ‘Look, tomorrow will be better, we have to continue trudging along towards the promised land’, are the leaders who are able to push society further.”
Molefe does not believe there should be any distinction between business and political leadership as they all share similar traits and have wide ranging responsibilities.
The greatest inspiration in his life has been his father. “My father has played a big role in my life. Naturally he is the leader I have spent the most time with. Being the head of the family, he came from humble beginnings and worked very hard until he finally became a professor in his field of study, and that has inspired me,” he says.
Molefe believes that South Africa, being a member of Brics, has high significance. “Brics is a game-changer because it is big and highly influential.
“For the first time since the Bretton Woods institutions were established in 1945, we now have an alternative hegemony. So the World Bank and the IMF have had a grip over the world – what they said was religion. But now, developing countries have come together and said we are going to pool our funds, manage these funds and facilitate infrastructure development on our own terms. This really is the first time that that has ever happened in the world,” Molefe explains.
He hopes that in 40 to 50 years the impact of Brics on developing countries will be so significant in shaping these countries’ destinies.
In conclusion Molefe advises upcoming entrepreneurs, business people and politicians to have a strong belief in making their mark and being part of history.
“They should not be afraid to make their mark and go out and explore new things. Technology continues to advance on a daily basis exponentially. The possibilities are great. Young entrepreneurs must not be afraid to go out there and look for things that can change their own lives and that can change the world.”
Evans Nyasha Manyonga