Durban harbour. Picture: MARIANNE SCHWANKHART
Durban harbour. Picture: MARIANNE SCHWANKHART

It’s little more than a year since Transnet CEO Portia Derby told the FM that she wasn’t in the job to be an also-ran.

"The idea is to win," she said.

Sadly for her, there seem precious few signs that Transnet is doing any winning right now. Its ports have been forced to declare force majeure twice in three months, while its rail performance again appears to be sinking rapidly.

Just this week, coal producer Thungela Resources cited a deterioration in Transnet’s rail capacity for a cut in its profit expectations. If Thungela is battling, you can bet its peers such as Exxaro, Kumba and Anglo American are struggling too.

This should be of particular concern to Transnet’s only shareholder, the SA government, which has managed to bluster its way through directionless economic policy over the past year, thanks almost entirely to the money it has made from the metals we were able to ship abroad.

It’s not all Transnet’s fault either: the staggering vandalism that continues to strip railway tracks, cables and even stations is at crisis level, and must be addressed urgently by the police and state security agencies.

If Transnet falters, so does SA’s economy. It’s that important.

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