Archive | Mining, beneficiation

Parliament updated on SOE finances

…..article dated 25 August 2020……

DPE presents bleak picture…. 

As part of a portfolio committee meeting covering the status of the seven SOEs under the umbrella of the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), new director general,  Khathatso Tlhakudi,  provided a sombre picture of the current financial malaise within the SA public sector.  However. he ended up on a more positive note with regard to Denel and SAA.    On Eskom, he said,  he would make some comment but as they were reporting on a regular basis to Parliament, he said he would not report in great depth.

On Denel, he commented that he had “a good feeling that acting CEO Talib Sadik would hold the situation until a new CEO was appointed”, saying that “we need Denel for strategic reasons”.  He said that Sadik had the necessary enthusiasm and  drive to hold the fort.

As far as SAA was concerned, DPE “had made good progress with a business rescue plan which had now been approved” which fact  he claimed was “a major milestone after what had happened beforehand”. Now it was just a question if support could be found for the plan.

Outside Eskom

Tlhakudi commented that a good deal of the problem at Eskom, other than the specifics of state capture, was that most of the municipalities were not investing adequately in their distribution networks which he said were “falling apart at the nation’s expense”.

On electricity distribution “much of the problem could be put down to bad town planning”, he said.  “As a result of an inability to provide a proper  “pay as you go” service, informal settlements had simply connected themselves to the network, resulting in overloading and continual damage.”

Another issue was that councils should not just collect rates from communities but had to also invest in those communities. Consumer attitudes had to change, Tlhakudi said. Eskom was not in a position to subsidise non-payment in infrastructure, he said. “Responsible management is called for at community level and consumer attitudes have to change”.  He looked to CoGTA to assist in bring such changes about, as well as  the departments of Human Settlements, Water & Sanitation and Public Works to play their roles more purposefully.

Not all bad

DG Tlhakudi said that an infusion of new thinking had started at DPE.  “New ideas are emerging, he said. Great progress had been made with the ports; business was flowing well through the Maputo Corridor with the export of exporting magnetite; and activities around wine and fresh produce were getting some good numbers, ” he listed.  “The story at Transnet is coming right and the Trade and Industry Committee will be impressed, despite the problems of COVID”.

He concluded that DPE was in the process of finding new ways to intervene and assist timeously in SOE and departmental problems and cut short any drift towards malfeasance and corruption with intervention from the top, on an immediate response basis.

Overview of the SOE seven

In an overview of the DPE portfolio, Ms Jacky Molisane of DPE  took MPs through the sorry picture.

In alphabetical order, she recounted that (1) Alexkor, a diamond mining business and which has been attempting to establish a diamond polishing venture down the line, had reported a loss in the 2019/2020 financial year of R63m. This was in part due to low diamond prices, not helped by corruption at management level at its mine. Its cash reserves will be depleted by September and DPE.  Furthermore, its head office is being wound down.

Denel (2), which had been in the newspapers a lot this month with attempts to save the entity for its strategic value, reported a loss of R1.7bn for the 2019/20, its equity being well below the level of R4bn required as a going concern for investors. This, despite a R1.8bn funding in the year under review.  Ms Molisane said that R576m allocated for the 2020/21 has not been passed on by DPE at this stage, since the impact of COVID-19 had resulted in more strain for Denel, the position now being fluid. An acting CEO was currently holding the fort.

Simple facts

As far as Eskom (3) was concerned, Ms Molisane, giving a short picture, saying the simple facts were that any increase in revenue would purely be mainly reflected as due to increases in electricity tariffs.  Although cash from operations might be increasing, Ms Molisane said, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and depreciation were never going to be sufficient to cover increasing costs.  DPE and the taxpayer, as the shareholder, were not receiving a return on investment and the entity was a serious drain on the economy.

South African Forestry Company (4) had reported a loss of R47m for the year under review, mainly as a result of the decline in revenue and high operating expenses. A fair value adjustment saved the company from worse figures and Safcol badly needs re-investment in its equipment and operations.

South African Airways (5) has been under business rescue since December 2019 due to its declining performance and now the inability to pay its debts as they fall due.   A business rescue plan was approved in July 2020 by all creditors. Various options for raising funds were now being carried with the assistance of RMB as transaction advisor, Ms Molisane said. There was every hope that a partner would be found before 17 September.

Old story, old routes

On SAA, DG Khathatso Tlhakudi added the fact said the Department had brought in “some of the best brains, working together linked around the world to help it implement a plan mainly people who understood the airline industry.” Once a strategy was implemented for SAA, he said, DPE would be looking, first for a feeder network to sustain the airline, and then a decision was to be made as to the best way forward to recover routes.    Right now, “effort is being applied to help SAA out of the situation it found itself in”.

SA Express (6) was placed under business rescue in February 2020, Ms Molisane said, but a credible business plan was not found and liquidators called in.   With little likelihood that any expression of interest will be shown, SA Express could be liquidated at the end of September this year.

Ms Molisane then quickly touched on Transnet (7) where revenue had grown marginally by 3% to R75bn for the 2019/20 year under review but decline in demand is expected for the coming year due to COVID-19 and lockdown circumstances. Revenue at an expected figure of R78bn for 2020/21 therefore looked very unlikely. Given that Transnet would eventually get over the COVID setback, Molisane’s figures indicated a possible break-even point in the near future.

Dartboard

For three quarters of an hour, MPs from across party lines criticised DPE for its handling of a situation over the months preceding, a period in which in their view things had been allowed to get totally out of hand.    It was pointed our , however, by the DPE team that it was the system of government that was at fault as the individual boards ran the SOEs and there was a limit to which DPE could interfere.

Point after point was raised, eventually leading to a relatively sensible overview from Ghalib Cachalia (DA) who calculated that the seven SOEs were the major debt trap that had cumulatively led South Africa into its present sad state, whilst also being the home of state capture. Cachalia told DPE that they had to go about things differently, and very soon.

Action now

With a warning that SA was  “falling off the fiscal cliff”, Cachalia remarked that “tinkering around with balance sheets and expenses was getting the country nowhere” and that some new management concepts “were needed and needed urgently”.  The objectives of DPE were “to lead with vision a stable of state entities that led South Africa into new territory and uplifted the poor”. Quite the reverse was happening, he said.

Sibusiso Gumede (ANC) said the quagmire that DPE found itself in was contributed to by the inability state to intervene at any particular point, having to deal with a balance sheet problem well after the event.        He said, “Whilst it is commendable that DPE itself has shown good performance, it had to start running ‘good’ SOEs as well.  He said, “One cannot have an excellent department running ‘bad’ SOEs and we cannot have business as usual any more’.

Eskom starts internal overhaul – ParlyReportSA

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FFC: budget cuts may worsen service delivery

….article dated 20 July 2020…. 

Balance between needs and cuts required…. 

The Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC), the independent body which reports to Parliament on intergovernmental financial relations (IGFR) in terms of the Constitution, has told MPs of its deep concern that Minister Mboweni’s budget cuts, announced in the Supplementary Budget Bill, may adversely affect the ability of local government to manage service delivery commitments in the coming year.

FFC manager for fiscal policy, Eddie Rakabe, is also concerned that National Government has not given guidance to provinces and local municipalities on IGFR matters and how they should reprioritise their budgets after having chopped them.

Help down the line

Whilst acknowledging the reasons for the cuts because of the unforeseen pandemic, he called for government to recognise that a delicate balance has to be struck between expenditure reduction and the meeting of basic needs. On top of this, the Minister had asked all parties to switch to zero-budgeting  which may not be understood or implemented properly.

FFC Chairperson, Prof Daniel Plaatjies, acknowledged that an adjustment Budget by Minister Mboweni was necessary to mitigate the downsides of responding to the COVID-19 crisis but FFC’s main point was that in making Budgetary adjustments in such a short period of time, it was going to be extraordinarily difficult for all to produce new frameworks that were growth enhancing.

Not how much but how

Eddie Rakabe told parliamentarians that their comments were somewhat critical in the light of the Minister indicating that about R230bn in expenditure will have to be cut over the next two years which appeared drastic and care had to be exercised.

The FFC advises, he said, that a delicate balance must be struck between expenditure reduction and the meeting of basic needs. He was insistent that as expenditure is reduced, there had to be a plan to ensure that critical social services are not compromised.

The constitutional criteria in any Budget consideration had to be on the basis of spending where the basic rights of people are protected, Rakabe noted.  In this respect, the reprioritisation proposed by the supplementary Budget in the view of FFC complied with this criterion, he said.  However, the FFC was deeply concerned about the absence of a framework to guide provincial reprioritisation as a process — provinces having to do the reprioritisation on their own.

A little left and a little right

FFC agreed with the Parliamentary Budget Office, who had reported in the same meeting beforehand, that it was going to take a lot to get South Africa back to its pre COVID-19 position, which was not very strong in any case and the situation was fraught with the threat of collapse of social security plans.

Eddie Rakabe said, “We agree with the Minister that SA’s sovereign credit rating is a major concern since credit rating downgrades affect government’s ability to meet borrowing requirements and that to raise revenue from tax to meet social needs just because of the overwhelming need to meet debt servicing costs is not correct.

All the same, he said, the proposals needed much more care in application. Conditional grants had to be the main focus and whether there was a complete necessity for each.

 All too fast

FFC recommended that government reconsider the sequencing of the phases for managing the Covid 19 pandemic.    It was essential that capacity of provincial and local government treasuries be strengthened to ensure that they promote spending control and enhance spending effectiveness, they considered.

The FFC acknowledged the zero-based budgeting announcement but Rakabe said that he still remained most concerned about the effectiveness of changing the budget structure and the way things had been done for years so suddenly.  He said time and resources were necessary to “ operationalise zero-based budgeting” properly.

Hamba gahle

He warned that there are “a whole lot of issues that need sorting out before  moving full steam ahead with such a complicated financial concept being endorsed for all levels.

He told MPs of the Finance Standing Committee that in the FFC view, there was a great need to outline more clearly on how the un-allocated R19.6bn for job creation allocation is to work and who gets it needs to be  a lot more explicit.  On the President’s Covid-19 relief package, the divisions between national and provincial allocations were unclear, he commented.

Summation

Managing the fiscus through and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic had to be fleshed out in a lot more detail, Eddie Rakabe concluded.

From the meeting it became clear that whilst the FFC believes that  an increase in tax revenues  immediately was not a feasible policy option to assist local government through the COVID 19 period, the Minister’s announcement that future tax increases of R5bn in 2021/2022 year, R10bn in 2022/2023, R10bn in 2023/2024 and R15bn in 2024/2025 were considered as an acceptable necessary alternative.

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NECSA says nuclear will come to SA

……may 15 2020……

A damaged NECSA plans its energy future

….. The South African Nuclear Corporation (NECSA), with an employee role beyond its capacity as a result of waiting  for a R750bn nuclear programme which never arrived, might be getting back on track with the possibility of nuclear down the track.  Having lost some extremely valuable and experienced, government is attempting, it seems, to be breathing life into this once highly successful operation nearly destroyed by political interference.

NECSA is a valuable but largely ignored nuclear component in the stable of the now combined  Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), an entity which for the last ten years has been subjected to mismanagement, patronage, lack of management appointments and a considerable number of ministerial financial scandals.

After the years of waiting during the Zuma era, NECSA then lost and additional two years with the integration of the departments of mineral resources into energy but appears that DMRE , its parental department, has appointed a new board with new ideas on a NECSA future.

Bigger picture

The DMRE this year presented a plan to Parliament for an estimated budget of R9.3bn for the current financial year, 95% of which will be transferred as usual to its entities.

These will be Council for Geoscience National Energy; the Regulator of South Africa (NERSA), Central Energy Fund (CEF) (including PetroSA and the Strategic Fuel Fund or SFF):  the National Nuclear Regulator’s office(NERSA); NECSA itself; the National Radio-Active Waste Disposal Institute; Mintek and other smaller entities such as the Mine Health and Safety Council, the State Diamond Trader and the Diamond and Precious Metal Regulator.

Parliament therefore had to consider recently the period ahead covering 2020-2024 in the form of the Medium-Term Strategic Frameworks, or projections, for all these DMRE bodies.   This is no mean task in the light that may have suffered from the perambulations, thievery and in some cases, sheer ignorance resulting from the switchback ride of ten successive ANC ministers of energy and and ministers of mining.

Disjointed empire

Himself a  somewhat confusing and at times erratic Minster of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe  is now trying to put back the combined pieces of the jigsaw representing DMRE into some sort order but until now he seems to have been dealing with the edges and corners pieces of the puzzle but not dealing with the centre section where the working parts are.

Nobody is ever quite sure, it seems, in the case of NECSA, what actually is going on in this somewhat secretive corner of government.    In this area, now that the Zuma myth of the “New Build Nuclear” has been dispelled thanks to a court order to this effect, the re-tasking and consolidation of Minerals Resources and Energy department has been mostly completed.

The magic word

However, the question of nuclear energy has once again arisen, mainly due to a passing comment from the Minister that nuclear was indeed to become at some time part of the energy mix.

Ears pricked up in the environmental lobby camp and energy experts said in aghast that the energy mix after years of debate was now fixed.  One must remember, of course, that the nuclear energy issue never really goes away in the light of Koeberg power station operations in Cape Town and and medical isotopes from Pelindaba, Pretoria.

Half a billion in the red

The NECSA subsidiaries are NTP Radio Isotopes, Pelchem, Pelindaba Enterprises and Safari-1. NECSA overall has suffered cumulative losses of R257.78m in the 2016/17 and 2017/18 financial years and is expected to announce an even larger loss of R294.27m for 2018/19, resulting in cumulative losses of R552.05m for the three-year period.

This was more than evident in NECSA recent presentation to Parliament which, as it turned out, was just an interim report and more of a wish list than anything else.   Nevertheless, the ‘plan’ does indicate a complete change of direction.

SOE problems

In the case of NECSA the return to  “normality” might be a little faster than the other problem child of Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE),  PetroSA.    Sadly, in NECSA’s case, many excellent scientific brains have gone elsewhere and an opportunity to establish SA excellence in the field of isotopes lost.

The frightful track record of losses came to a head in 2019 when it was stated in the NECSA annual report that “ the significant delay in any new nuclear power plant programme to be undertaken by NECSA had become irrelevant”.  This was established to be for experts hired but never deployed.  “Irregular and wasteful” as the Auditor General put it.

Turnaround plan

The NECSA board filed a report in 2018, signed by former chairperson Dr Rob Adam and former acting CEO Don Robertson, which attempted to return NECSA to its original mandate of to promoting radiation sciences and technology research which included a programme of the retrenchment of valuable staff as part of the process of slimming down.

Both Dr Adam and CEO Robertson then left NECSA having filed the report with new DMRE department but this gathered dust, it appears, since other priories in gas development and Eskom dramas must have occupied the mind of Minister Gwede Mantashe.  However, he subsequently and eventually appointed Ayanda Myoli as acting CEO of NECSA.

In his first attendance at Parliament, 19 May 2020, Myoli  told Parliament that NECSA that for the coming year, NECSA would have a turnover of more than R2bn in the 2020/21 but still carrying a projected net loss of R61m on its shoulders.

Possible profits

Myoli told MPs last week that the key financial objective in the short term was to reduce losses and to rehabilitate the balance sheet to enable it to fund its growth and expansion strategy.  Looking ahead he further told the Portfolio Committee that for year five of the plan ahead, NECSA expected to make R550m in net profit and by 2030, R1.4bn net profit.

Over the next 12 months, he said the group’s objectives included commercial subsidiary NTP Radioisotopes regaining its 20% share in the global market for Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) medical radioisotopes, lost due a hibernation period when the station at Pelindaba was closed down in terms of UN requirements.   In the future NECSA is to increase its range of medical radioisotopes from three to four, Myoli added and continue support services include irradiating target plates from the SAFARI-1 research reactor.

 Competing with China

Another objective is to re-gear NECSA’s other subsidiary, chemical manufacturer Pelchem, who produce fluorochemicals in competition with China, and increase its revenues by R78m by building the necessary plant to enter the  commercial hydrogen fluoride industry, Myoli said.

With sister subsidiary Mintek, Pelchem would enter the antiretroviral drug market working with “international partners” Myoli then said, aiming to achieve a 35% share in the local ARV market and targeting to earn revenues in excess of  R721m per annum.

Re-entering nuclear

Ayanda Myoli stated that NECSA was not only to be responsible for the recreation of a nuclear fuel cycle in South Africa, protecting and maintaining the Koeberg installation but was proposing a new multi-purpose 2,500 GW nuclear reactor direction for the future.

In questioning NECSA, Kevin Mileham (DA) said he was particularly concerned that Ayanda Myoli had talked about a about 2 500 gigawatts nuclear reactor, small as that maybe compared with previous plans  of past president Jacob Zuma. This would fall, Mileham presumed, under the mysterious Pelindaba Enterprises, which according the, had hardly been mentioned in the framework plan at all for the next period. He asked for confirmation

Conflict on statements

DA’s Mileham said any nuclear reactor did not align with the IRP, which made no provision for 2 500 gigawatts from any new build projected. He said that NECSA must be working off the wrong version of the IRP and said CEO Ayanda Myoli had simply repeated what Minister Mantashe had announced a week ago when he spoke on this to the media. Mileham, as shadow minister of energy for the DA, wanted an official explanation in writing as this was the first time the issue had been raised in Parliament.

CEO Myoli responded that the IRP had delineated what plant ought to be commissioned up to 2030. He said the IRP does not list what goes beyond 2030. He added that even assuming DMRE, on behalf of NECSA, placed contracts in 2024 for any relatively small and supplementary new build nuclear programme, there would be nothing online before around 2030/32, after the current IRP period had expired.

Commenting as an individual, Myoli said that he felt that the current IRP had a weakness in this area  as it now considered inputs in process nine years from now, and for mega projects in energy nine years was absolutely nothing.

Further nuclear questions

Myoli said any ARV’s with Pelchem would be produced under licence from Macleod Pharmaceuticals Limited from India, currently the largest producer and supplier of ARVs and TB pharmaceutical products. Currently, they were awaiting the final concurrence from the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health on this.

It seems Macleods  it is one of the ten largest pharmas in India owned by Dr Rajendra Agarwal & family producing generics for a range of diseases including asthma, osteoporosis and diabetes.  Agarwal’s older brothers Girdhari Lal Bawri and Banwari Lal Bawri are chairman and joint managing director respectively.

 Wrapping up 

In conclusion, the presentation said that the new strategy was intended to make NECSA “a world leader in nuclear radiation and related technologies and chemicals  by 2030”. The strategy set targets for the next 12 months, the next five years and the next ten years.

Although the meeting time was limited (the main problem with parliamentary virtual meetings) it was quite apparent that by no means had NECSA close to explaining its full programme for the future, nor in fact was it ready to disclose this in detail.

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Marine Spatial Bill targets ocean resources…

Bill to bring order to marine economy…

November 2017 ParlyReport…..

In the light of President Zuma’s emphasis in his recent speeches on oil and gas issues, it is important to couple this in terms of government policy with the tabling of the section 76 Marine Spatial Planning Bill (MSP Bill).  The proposals are targeted at business and industry  to establish “a marine spatial planning system” offshore over South African waters.

The Bill  also says it is aimed at “facilitating good ocean governance, giving effect to South Africa’s international obligations.”

A briefing by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) on their proposals is now awaited in Parliament. The Bill until recently was undergoing controversial hearings in the provinces as is demanded by its section 76 nature.

Water kingdom

The MSP Bill applies to activities within South Africa’s territorial waters known as Exclusive Economic Zones, which are mapped out areas with co-ordinates within South Africa’s continental shelf claim and inclusive of all territorial waters extending the Prince Edward Islands.

The Bill flows, government says, from its Operation Phakisa plan to develop South Africa’s sea resources, notably oil and gas.   The subject has recently been subject to hearings in SA provinces that have coastal activities. This importantly applies to South African and international marine interests operating from ports in Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Eastern and Western Cape but also  involves coastal communities and their activities.

International liaison

Equally as important as maritime governance, is the wish to assist in job creation by letting in work creators.  Accounted for also are international oceanic environmental obligations to preserve nature and life supporting conditions which DEA state can in no way can be ignored if maritime operations and industrial seabed development are to be considered.

South Africa is listed as a UNESCO participant, together with a lengthy list of other oceanic countries, agreements which, whilst not demanding total compliance on who does what, are in place to establish a common approach to be respected by oceanic activity, all to be agreed in the 2016/7 year.  South Africa is running late.

Invasion protection

Whilst the UNESCO discipline covers environmental aspects and commercial exploitation of maritime resources, the MSP Bill now before Parliament states that in acknowledging these international obligations, such must be balanced with the specific needs of communities, many of whom have no voice in an organised sense.

As Operation Phakisa has its sights set on the creation of more jobs from oceanic resources therefore, the MSP Bill becomes a balancing act for the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and the Bill is attracting considerable interest as a result.

The hearings in the Eastern Cape have already exposed the obvious conundrum that exists between protecting small-time fishing interests and community income in the preservation of fishing waters and development of undersea resources.  What has already emerged that the whole question of the creation of future job creation possibilities from seabed-mining, oil and gas exploration and coastal sand mining is not necessarily understood, as has been heard from small communities.

The ever present dwindling supply of fish stocks is not also accepted in many quarters, with fishing quotas accordingly reduced.

Tug of war

All views must be considered nevertheless but from statements made at the political top in Parliament it becomes evident that the potential of developing geological resources far outweigh the needs of a shrinking fishing industry.  At the same time, politicians usually wish to consider votes and at parliamentary committee level, the feedback protestfrom the many localised hearings is being heard quite loudly.

As one traditional fishing person said at the hearings in the Eastern Cape, “The sea is our land but we can only fish in our area to sustain life. The law is stopping us fishing for profit.”

Local calls

The attendees at many hearings have said that the MSP Bill and similar regulations in force restrict families from earning from small local operations such as mining sand; allow only limited fishing licences and call for homes to be far from the sea denying communities the right to benefit from the sea and coastal strips for a living.

Hearings last went to the West Coast and were held with Saldanha Bay communities.

Big opportunities

Conversely, insofar as Operation Phakisa is concerned, President Zuma, as has been stated, said clearly in his latest State of Nation AddressZuma that government has an eye for much more investment into oil and gas exploration.   He has since announced that there are plans afoot to drill at least 30 deep-water oil and gas exploration wells within the next 10 years as part of Operation Phakisa.

Coupled to this is the more recent comment in Parliament that once viable oil and gas reserves are found, the country could possibly extract up to 370 000 barrels of fossil fuels each day within 20 years – the equivalent of 80% of current oil and gas imports.

According to the deadline set by the Operation Phakisa framework, the MSP Bill should have been taken to Parliament at the beginning of December 2016 for promulgation as an Act by the end of June 2017, making it appear that things are running late.

Environmental focus

As the legislation is environmentally driven, with commercial interests coming to the surface in a limited manner at this stage, the matter is being handled by the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs.    It is understood that later joint meetings will be held with the Trade and Industry Committee and with Energy Committee members.

Adding to the picture that is now beginning to emerge, is the fact that Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, has signed a MOU with the Offshore Petroleum Association of South Africa.

Minister Pandor said at the time of signing, “The South African coastal and marine environment is one of our most important assets.   Currently South Africa is not really deriving much from the ocean’s economy. This is therefore why we want to build a viable gas industry and unlock the country’s vast marine resources.”

Moves afoot

OPASA is now to make more input with offshore oil and gas exploration facts and figures.   Energy publications are now bandying figures around that developments in this sphere will contribute “about R20bn to South Africa’s GDP over a five-year period.”   If this is the case, the Energy Minister might be compromised once again, as she was with renewables, on the future makeup of the planned energy mix.

Amongst the particularly worrying issues raised by opposition parliamentarians and various groupings in agricultural and fishing areas is that there is a proposal in the MSP Bill on circuit states that the Act will trump all other legislation when matters relate to marine spatial planning. DEA will have to answer this claim.

Opposition

Earthlife Africa have also stated at hearings in Richards Bay that in their opinion “Operation Phakisa has very little to do with poverty alleviation and everything to do with profits for corporates, most likely with the familiar kickbacks for well-connected ‘tenderpreneurs’ and their political allies.”

This is obviously no reasoned argument and just a statement but gives an indication of what is to be faced by DEA in the coming months.

Giants enter

With such diverse views being expressed on the Bill, President Zuma and past Minister  of Energy, Mmamaloko Kubayi cannot have missed the announcement that Italy’s Eni and US oil and gas giant, Anadarko, have signed agreements with the Mozambique government to develop gas fields and build two liquefied natural gas terminals on the coast to serve Southern African countries.

Eni says it is spending $8bn to develop the gas fields in Mozambique territorial waters and Anadarko is developing Mozambique’s first onshore LNG plant consisting of two initial LNG trains with a total capacity of 12-million tonnes per annum.  More than $30bn, it has been stated in a joint release by those companies, is expected to be invested in Mozambique’s natural gas sector in the near future.

Impetus gaining

In general, therefore, the importance of a MSP Bill is far greater than most have realized. The vast number of countries called upon to have their MSP legislation in place also indicates international pressure for the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs to move at speed.

This follows a worldwide shift to exploiting maritime resources, an issue not supported by most enviro NGOs and green movements without serious restrictions.  Most parliamentary comments indicate that the trail for oil and gas revenues needs following up and the need to create jobs in this sector is even greater.

Ground rules

Whilst the oil and gas industry and the proponents of Operation Phakisa also recognize that any form of MSP Bill should be approved to provide gateway rules for their operations and framework planning, the weight would seem to be behind the need for clarity in legislation and urgency in implementation of not only eco-friendly but labour creating legislation.

Operation Phakisa, as presented to Parliament particularly specified that the development of MSP legislation was necessary and Sean Lunn, chairperson of OPASA has said that the Bill will “add tangible value to South Africa’s marine infrastructure, protection services and ocean governance.”  He said it will go a long way in mitigating differences between the environmentalists and developers.

Not so nice

On seabed mining, the position with the MSP Bill is not so clear, it seems.    Saul Roux for the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) says that the Department of Mineral Resources granted a few years ago three rights to prospect for marine phosphates.

He also stated that the marine process “involves an extremely destructive form of mining where the top three metres of the seabed is dredged up and consequently destroys critical, delicate and insufficiently understood sea life in its wake.”   Phosphates are predominantly used for agricultural fertiliser.

“These three rights”, he said “extend over 150,000 km2 or 10% of South Africa’s exclusive economic zone.”

Something happening

One of CER’s objectives, Roux says, is to have in place a moratorium on bulk marine sediment mining in South Africa.   He complains that despite the three mining rights having been gazetted, he cannot get any response from Minister of Mineral Resources, Mosebenzi Zwane, or any access to any documents on the subject.

He stated there were two South African companies involved in mining sea phosphates and one international group, these being Green Flash Trading 251, Green Flash Trading 257 and Diamond Fields International, a Canadian mining company. All appeared to be interested in seabed exploration for phosphates although not necessarily mining itself.

Roux called for the implementation of an MSP Bill which specifically disallowed this activity as is the case in New Zealand, he said.

Coming your way

The MSP Bill was tabled in April 2017 and once provincial hearings are complete it will come to Parliament. The results of these hearings will be debated and briefings commenced when announced shortly.

Previous articles on category subject

Operation Phakisa to develop merchant shipping – ParlyReportSA

Hide and seek over R14.5bn Ikhwezi loss – ParlyReportSA

Green Paper on nautical limits to make SA oceanic nation – ParlyReportSA

Gas undoubtedly on energy back burner – ParlyReportSA

 

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Border Management Authority around the corner

SARS role at border posts being clarified ….

In adopting the Border Management Authority (BMA) Bill, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs agreed with a wording that at all future one-stop border posts, managed and administered by the envisaged agency and reporting to Department of Home Affairs (DHA), were to “facilitate” the collection of customs revenue and fines by SARS staff present.

However, on voting at the time of the meeting, Opposition members would not join in on the adoption of the Bill until the word “facilitate” was more clearly defined and the matter of how SARS would collect and staff a border post was resolved.

Haniff Hoosen, the DA’s Shadow Minister of Economic Development said that whilst they supported the Bill in general and its intentions, they also supported the view of National Treasury that the SARS value chain could not be put at risk until Treasury was satisfied on all points regarding their ability to collect duty on goods and how.

Keeping track

Most customs duty on goods arriving at border controls had already been paid in advance, parliamentarians were told; only 10% being physically collected at SA borders when goods were cleared.

However, with revenue targets very tight under current circumstances both SARS and Treasury have been adamant that it must be a SARS employee who collects any funds at border controls and the same to ensure that advance funds have indeed been paid into the SARS system.

The Bill, which enables the formation of the border authority itself, originally stated that it allowed for the “transfer, assignment and designation of law enforcement functions on the country’s borders and at points of entry to this agency.”

Long road

It was the broad nature of transferring the responsibility customs of collection from SARS to the agency that caused Treasury to block any further progress of the Bill through Parliament, much to the frustration of past Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba.   It has been two years since the Bill was first published for comment.

DHA have maintained throughout that their objective is to gain tighter control on immigration and improve trading and movement of goods internationally but Treasury has constantly insisted that customs monies and payments fall under their aegis. The relationships between custom duty paid on goods before arrival at a border to Reserve Bank and that which must be paid in passage, or from a bonded warehouse was not a typical DHA task, they said.

Breakthrough

It was eventually agreed by DHA that SARS officials must be taken aboard into the proposed structure and any duties or fines would go direct to SARS and not via the new agency to be created or DHA.

This was considered a major concession on the part of DHA in the light of their 5-year plan to create “one stop” border posts with common warehouses shared by any two countries at control points and run by one single agency. More efficient immigration and better policing at borders with improving passage of goods was their stated aim.

Already one pilot “one stop border post”, or OSBP, has been established by DHA at the main Mozambique border post by mixing SAPS, DHA and SARS functions, as previously reported.

To enable the current Bill, an MOU has been established with SAPS has allowed for the agency to run policing of SA borders in the future but Treasury subsequently baulked at the idea of a similar MOU with SARS regarding collection of customs dues and the ability to levy fines.
Bill adopted

At the last meeting of the relevant committee, Chairperson of the PC Committee on Home Affairs, Lemias Mashile (ANC) noted that in adopting the Bill by majority vote and not by total consensus, this meant the issue could be raised again in the National Council of Provinces when the Bill went for consensus by the NCOP.

Objectives

The Agency’s objectives stated in the Bill include the management of the movement of people crossing South African borders and putting in place “an enabling environment to boost legitimate trade.”

The Agency would also be empowered to co-ordinate activities with other relevant state bodies and will also set up an inter-ministerial committee to handle departmental cross-cutting issues, a border technical committee and an advisory committee, it was said.

Mozambique border

As far as the OSBP established at the Mozambique border was concerned, an original document of intention was signed in September 2007 by both countries. Consensus on all issues was reached between the two covering all the departments affected by cross-border matters.

Parliament was told at the time that the benefit of an OSBP was that goods would be inspected and cleared by the authorities of both countries with only one stop, which would encourage trade. In any country, he explained, there had to be two warehouses established, both bonded and state warehouses.

Bonded and State warehouses

Bonded warehouses which were privately managed and licensed subject to certain conditions, were to allow imported goods to be stored temporarily to defer the payment of customs duties.

Duties and taxes were suspended for an approved period – generally two years but these had to be paid before the goods entered the market or were exported, MPs were told. The licensee bore full responsibility for the duty and taxes payable on the goods.

State warehouses on the other hand, SARS said at the time, were managed by SARS for the safekeeping of uncleared, seized or abandoned goods. They provided a secure environment for the storage of goods in which the State had an interest. Counterfeit and dangerous or hazardous goods were moved to specialised warehouses.

Slow process

MPs noted that it had taken over six years for the Mozambique OSBP to be finalised. SARS said there were many ramifications at international law but added two discussions with Zimbabwe for the same idea had now taken place. It was hoped it would take less time to reach an agreement as lessons had been learnt with the Mozambican experience.

On evasion of and tax, SARS said in answer to a question that losses obviously occurred through customs avoidance and evasion, so it was consequently it was difficult to provide an overall figure on customs duty not being paid, as evasion was evasion. Smuggling of goods such as narcotics, or copper, which could only be quantified based on what had been seized.

The same applied to the Beit Bridge border with Zimbabwe where cigarette smuggling was of serious concern and through Botswana.

In general, it now seems that Home Affairs is to adopt an overall principle of what was referred to as having one set of common warehouses for one-stop declaration, search, VAT payment and vehicle movement with a SARS presence involving one common process for both countries subject to a final wording on the SARS issue before the Bill is submitted for signature.

Previous articles on category subject
Border Authority to get grip on immigration – ParlyReportSA
Mozambique One Stop Border Post almost there – ParlyReportSA

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Green Paper on rail transport published

sent to clients 12 October…..

National rail policy mapped out…..

metrorailA Green Paper on South Africa’s National Rail Policy has been published for comment naming the country’s challenges in rail transportation, recommending policy direction and containing broad proposals for the way forward to develop the current rail network.

Gazetted recently, the Green Paper represents work commenced in 2010 and says the document “Seeks to revitalise the local railway industry by means of strategic policy interventions”.   Not only is freight rail included in the proposals but long-distance rail passenger and localised commuter services.

Road dominates at a cost

Minister Peters said in a media statement at the time that railways in South Africa had operated for almost more than a century without a proper overarching policy framework to guide development.   “The railway line and its railway stations have played a pivotal role in the day-to-day lives of communities, especially those in the rural areas, but as far as freight is concerned, 89% of freight is still transported by road and the future of commuter rail conducted on an ad hoc basis”.

roadsThe emphasis of road transport is costing the country millions of rands annually in road maintenance, money that could have been well spent on developing freight rail, she said.

The process

Cabinet last month approved the release of the Green Paper for public consultation. When all is finished, a final White Paper on National Rail Policy will be released to guide and direct development of infrastructure and develop more modern commuter systems. A National Rail Act will be the final result of the White Paper.

These interventions, according to Minister Peters, will reposition both passenger and freight rail for inherent competitiveness by “exploiting rail’s genetic technologies to increase axle load, speed, and train length.“

Lining things up

railway lineWider-gauge technologies are on the cards.   The government has said it is converting 20 000km of track to standard gauge from the narrower Cape gauge. This would bring the network in line with an African Union resolution on the subject and at the same time would boost capacity of goods carried, with longer trains and a reduction in transportation costs.

With both passenger and freight rail falling within its scope, part of the envisaged national transport policy includes involvement by the department of transport (DOT) in the local government sphere to create capabilities to move more passengers by rail with infrastructure, more rail line and technical assistance.

Creating local commuter rail

Secondly, once the localised capacity is in place, DOT says it will be able to appropriate subsidies for urban commuter rail, the management of the mini-systems then being devolved to municipalities themselves.

The Green Paper talks of investment and funding, private sector participation, inter-connection with the sub-Continent, skills planning, investment strategies and the start of a regulatory system.     Part of the master plan at operations level would include a branch line strategy with the private sector involved to improve connection between cities with towns and industrial areas.

Other articles in this category or as background

Transnet improves on road to rail switch – ParlyReportSA

South Africa remains without rail plan – ParlyReportSA

Minister comments on taxi and rail plans – ParlyReportSA

PRASA gets its rail commuter plan started – ParlyReport

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SARS understaffed to deal with transfer pricing

Davis report on transfer pricing confirms …

NB: This article updated after two recent meetings of committee on transfer pricing. Report with clients.

JudgeDennisDavisSouth African Revenue Service (SARS) was completely lacking in sufficient staff to deal effectively with transfer pricing in order to spot illegal transactions, said Judge Dennis Davis in his capacity as chairperson of the Tax Review Committee when addressing the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources.

He also pointed out that SARS, in any case, was also not provided with sufficient information by declaring companies, particularly multinationals as legislation stood at present, to further probe cross-border transactions to determine whether the movements involved the illicit transfer of profits from high-tax to low-tax regimes.

He told parliamentarians that whilst about three years ago SARS had conducted a very specific and targeted investigation, and had raised in one financial year alone some R1.1bn, this only illustrated the far larger amount of “haemorrhaging” that was taking place.

Not transfers but manipulation…

The Judge had to explain to MPs time and time again that transfer pricing in itself was not illegal, only any manipulative tax behaviour usually involving non-declaration or undervaluation.

Judge Dennis Davis referred to the recent highly publicised case involving HSBC where some R23bn directly involved the SA fiscus “and which was under review by SARS”.  He also drew attention to the fact that as a result of disclosures during the Marikana inquiry, Lonmin appeared to have profited by some R280m in saved taxes by transfers.

railfreight“Fictitious transfer pricing declarations were the problem”, he said, where multinationals managed to declare profits which appeared lower in countries with higher tax rates and higher in countries with lower tax rates. This occurred where the culprits identified transfers of intangibles for less than full value; showed over capitalisation of tax group companies and declared contractual arrangements with low risk tax environments.

Digging deeper

The Davis Tax Committee had recommended to National Treasury Department that the current unit in SARS, dedicated to base erosion and profit shifting be strengthened. At present this constituted only twenty personnel. “Building up this team would enable SARS to dig deeper into companies’ affairs”, he said.

Billy JoubertBilly Joubert, Tax Director, Deloittes, pointed to the fact that transfer pricing was in fact a “neutral” instrument in terms of its intention to promote industrialisation because its purpose was in fact to achieve arm’s length profits across the value chain.

Transfer pricing rules based on international best practice provided investors with certainty and it also protected the tax base of the relevant country, he said.   It was therefore an essential part of any tax system, providing taxpayers did not manipulate prices by shifting profits to lower tax jurisdictions. He condemned the practice.

Arm’s length reporting in question

Joubert said South Africa was an observer and an active contributor to the OECD and their transfer pricing guidelines was a resultant consensus document. It was critical for SA to align with the tax policies adopted by their trading partners where they could, endorse “the arm’s length principle” adopting the guidelines in their own domestic environment and follow global standards.

He said that SARS had achieved the collection of approximately R5bn over the last three years from some 30 audits and adjustments of R20bn.

He concluded that SARS’s new rules “were now more closely aligned to the global standard and possibly ahead of many other countries”, noting, however, there was a lack of certainty in terms of outdated practice notes; limited guidance on implementation of “secondary adjustment mechanisms”; and also a lack of interaction with double tax agreements which were closely allied to the process.

Back to understaffing…

Prof Johann Hattingh of UCT pointed to the fact that the Davis Tax Committee recommended full compulsory OECD style taxpayer information disclosure and there “was more than enough in the legislative armoury of SARS to effectively combat intercompany mispricing or tax abusive behaviour”.

However, he also pointed to the fact that SARS was understaffed and simply outnumbered by input of declarations to effectively implement transfer pricing legislation across a broad spectrum.

Prof Hattingh explained that insofar as tax interpretation was concerned it was a complex and ultimately subjective evaluation because of the difficulty in identifying intangibles and services which were transferred or provided and the arm’s length price at which they were valued. Even the whole definition of an “arms length transaction” was subject to difficult legal, accounting and tax interpretation, he pointed out.

OECD the genisis

He said all BRICS countries, except Brazil, took the OECD guidelines as a starting point, Brazil using fixed international commodity prices which provided more certainty but which conflicted in many cases with double tax agreements, since double tax could arise in one of the countries involved in transfers.

EFF member Freddie Shivambu said that in terms of SARS, staffing with skilled personnel was not the only problem as far as could see but there was a lack of clarity on the way forward.  Judge Davis replied that there were indeed criminal elements involved, such as illegal siphoning of money and under-declaration of assets, but his committee had established “empirical evidence” that the amount lost to the fiscus was not always as high as it was reported to be.

But the way forward, he re-empahsised, involved updating wording of legislation; the ability to follow up on “arms length transactions” and more staff to do this. His Committee’s report was with the President.

ANC says transfer pricing is manipulation

Some ANC members pointed to the fact that some multinationals were making “massive profits and not contributing to the country’s agenda to address poverty, inequality and unemployment and transformation” and that transfer pricing should be banned. Others called for it to be declared “illegal”.

They were corrected again by Judge Davis who explained that transfer pricing was a legitimate necessary process for companies doing legitimate transactions and as such it could not and would not be “banned” or illegalised.

D Macpherson DAMr D Macpherson (DA) joined the debate to say that the issue of illicit transfer pricing should not become a political matter but that it was a national concern for all, pointing to the fact that whilst transfer pricing was one issue, the country was losing some R6bn through other forms of corruption.

It was all part of the same problem, he said, and the country had to take a stand against all illicit activities that deliberately robbed the government of revenue.

Not just mining worldwide

Meanwhile Judge Davis agreed with ANC members that “additional revenue was needed to redress historical injustices” but the World Bank had reported that South Africa had addressed this challenge better than most countries, including Brazil. There was no evidence to suggest that transfer pricing affected the mining industry notably.

He was joined by Billy Joubert of Deloittes who stated that such a transaction should not be criminalised because they were cross-border transactions, which was essentially transfer pricing, and re-emphasised that they were “neutral” until  assessed and found to be illicit or not.

National Union of Mineworkers said transfer prices should in principle match either what the seller would charge an independent, arm’s length customer, or what the buyer would pay an independent, arm’s length supplier. He claimed that transfer pricing defeated the objectives of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act.

“All it meant”, said the NUM spokesperson, “was retrenchment of employees; low and unequal salaries: inadequate investment on skills development; poor implementation of social and labour plans and less investment on health and safety standards, resulting in injuries and fatalities.”

brigette radebeBridgette Radebe of South African Mining Development Association (SAMDA) said her records showed that “out of 151 countries, South Africa lost, on average, the twelfth highest amount of money through illicit financial outflows”. She disagreed with Joubert of Deloittes on the ‘neutrality’ of transfer pricing and the effects and that the statement that the mining industry was a “small player” was incorrect.

She said the mining industry contributed 17% of GDP and 38% of exports, plus 19% of private investment with R78 billion spent in wages and salaries. “These figures were totally eroded and made misleading by transfer pricing”, she said.  She provided the parliamentarians with a series of figures explaining how transfer pricing in the mining industry took place and claimed that manipulation was often the practice.

SAMDA suggested the immediate alignment of the mining charter with the B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice with transfer pricing and to address the issue of penalties contained in the charter for non-compliance.  Much agreement from ANC members took place.

Multinationals under attack

One ANC member stated that “the bulk of South Africa’s mineral resources were in the hands of foreign nationals and it was good that SAMDA and organised labour came together and addressed the issue of transfer pricing in terms of the South Africa’s economy.”

A department of mineral resources (DMR) staff member attending was called upon by the chair to respond, who stated that all the issues raised would be discussed by his department and in the light of success with penalties under the Mine and Safety Act, increased penalties for breeches in declarations might be considered.

Cooperation possible

DMR and SARS had been working together, the spokesperson said, on the whole issue of transfer pricing, a memorandum of understanding between the two departments having been established.

SAMDA said that some multinational companies often wished to “manipulate prices to such an extent that there was no income for beneficiation or share distribution and consequently loans on shares could not be repaid.”

Other articles in this category or as background
//parlyreportsa.co.za/uncategorized/sars-to-be-given-right-to-search-without-warrant/
//parlyreportsa.co.za/securitypolicedefence-2/customs-duty-bill-cuts-inland-ports/
//parlyreportsa.co.za/finance-economic/promotion-and-protection-of-investment-bill-opens-major-row/
//parlyreportsa.co.za/finance-economic/financial-sector-regulation-bill-heralds-twin-peaks/

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South Africa remains without rail plan

 Feature article….

Minister Peters fails on rail policy…

dipou Peters2In a written reply to Parliament on the whereabouts of the promised Green Paper on rail policy, transport minister Dipuo Peters told her questioners that such a document which has the intention of outlining South Africa’s rail policy was to be presented to cabinet in November. GCIS statements for cabinet meetings for November and the final cabinet statement in December 2014 made no reference to any such submission having been made – alternatively, the minister might have failed to have it put on the agenda. The country therefore went into Christmas recess once again without an established government policy on both freight and passenger rail transport matters, worrying both industrialists, investors and, not the least, built environment planners.

Just talking together

A draft Green Paper was first submitted to cabinet a year ago but cabinet instructed that more consultation on the proposals was necessary, particularly interchange between the transport and public enterprises departments. The portfolio committee on transport stated that policy on freight rail upgrading and infrastructure development was unclear, plans for commuter and long-distance passenger services confused and no clear picture had emerged on Transnet’s promised policy of structural re-organisation. Subsequent to this, the department set up a national rail policy steering committee to oversee the consultation process and introduce the required changes to policy. It has also divested itself of a number of non-core assets but no clear picture has emerged in statements on the promised policy of giving direction on the privatisation of branch lines.

Since time began…

According to the minister at the time, cabinet’s concerns had also involved the adoption of a standard gauge, private sector participation and economic regulation.  Subsequently, DoT indicated that standard gauge has been selected as the most suitable gauge for the South African rail network and as a result a final revised Green Paper was tabled before the steering committee in October 2014. Nothing has emerged. In the absence of any agreed policy, particularly to meet the proposed idea of rail freight re-assuming its dominant role over road transport in the light of the deteriorating national road picture, a number of developments have indeed taken place with regard to the purchase of diesel and electric train stock, signal systems upgrades and station re-building and passenger coach rolling stock manufacture. Nevertheless, no clear picture has emerged on the road ahead with regard to the freight/road picture, branch line privatisation, commencement dates for full long distance passenger services nor satisfactory plans and targets expressed on domestic commuter rail services.

All said before

Jeremy Cronin, when deputy transport minister, told Parliament in April 2011 that by establishing a local manufacturing base for the new rolling stock, benefits would ensue by creating a substantial number of local jobs. He added that as a result of the redevelopment of rail engineering capacity, skills that have been lost over decades of underinvestment in the local rail engineering industry would be recovered. The then deputy minister also said, “We are currently (2011) in the Green Paper phase with the primary objective of preparing the way for effective stake holder engagement. We are poised to reverse the decline in our critical rail sector that began in the mid-1970s and gathered pace in the late 1980’s.” In April 2015 therefore the country will be the fourth year of waiting for South Africa to outline its rail policy, “a system critically in decline” according to minister Cronin.

Recent update from Maties

A few months ago, a most important paper on rail transport, now in the in the hands of DoT, was published and out into the public domain by Dr Jan Havenga, director: centre for supply chain management, department of logistics, Stellenbosch University, who led a team of transport logistics experts to complete this erudite and informed report. The report is entitled “South Africa’s freight rail reform: a demand-driven perspective” and opens with a definition of government’s responsibilities in rail transport matters. “The role of the government is, primarily, to facilitate the development of a long-term logistics strategy that optimally equilibrates demand and supply through ‘anticipation’ of the market character.” “The definition of a national network of road and rail infrastructure and their intermodal connections will flow from this, presupposing neutrality across modes by taking full account of all relevant social, environmental, economic and land-use factors.” “This ensures that the mix of transport modes reflects their intrinsic efficiency, rather than government policies and regulations that favour one mode over another. The strategy is subsequently enabled by a clearly defined freight policy, a single funding regime for the national network and, lastly, the establishment of appropriate regulatory framework.”

Volume of freight critical

The report notes that “the American Trucking Association (2013) forecasts that intermodal rail will continue to be the fastest-growing freight mode in the next decade. Only the very busiest railway networks, which can exploit the density potential of volume growth, are likely to generate sufficiently high financial returns to attract substantial risk capital in long-term railway infrastructure.” “The Association of American Railroads as well in 2013 also highlights the impact of density on efficiency, revenue and, ultimately, the ability to reinvest.”

Lacking in market intelligence

Dr Havenga says, “The failure of South Africa’s freight railway to capture this market is attributable to a lack of policy direction regarding the role of the two modes (road and rail) in the surface freight transport industry and according to the Development Bank of Southern Africa, caused by the absence of sufficient market intelligence to inform policy.” He goes on to confirm that “one of the key requirements for an efficient national freight transport system is better national coordination based on market-driven approaches.”

Pressing need

“To avoid the ad hoc policy responses of the previous century, which led to sub-optimisation, increasing complexity and decreasing end-user quality, the pressing reform issue for South Africa, therefore, is agreement on the design of an optimal freight logistics network based on a market-driven long-term strategy that holistically addresses the country’s surface freight transport requirements.” Dr. Havenga’s final comment in the report, only a few weeks old, states that South Africa’s freight task is expected to treble over the next 30 years, with further concentration on the long-distance corridors. He points out that the country desperately needs a profit-driven market related core rail network to serve industry and manufacturing, as well as a developmental-driven branch line network to serve rural development. Other articles in this category or as background //parlyreportsa.co.za/transport/minister-comments-taxis-e-tolls-road-rail/ //parlyreportsa.co.za/finance-economic/prasa-gets-its-rail-commuter-plan-started/ //parlyreportsa.co.za/uncategorized/transnet-says-freight-rail-operations-coming-right/ //parlyreportsa.co.za/uncategorized/rail-is-departments-main-focus-in-year-ahead/

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