Region eyed for small harbours: Chinese funding involved

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Plans for small harbours for Port St Johns and Gonubie have been packaged into national projects which will be presented to investors in coming weeks.

Former Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, left, with premier Phumulo Masualle during the small harbour programme launch in Buffalo City this week Picture: SINO MAJANGAZA

This was announced by Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi on Wednesday, only hours before his ship left the political harbour when he was reshuffled and replaced by Nathi Nhleko.

Nxesi is now the sports minister.

Asked about the future of the project post reshuffle, Dhaya Govender, Public Works deputy director-general (small harbours and coastal properties) said last week: “This is a presidential project. I am a bureaucrat. The show goes on!”

Nxesi was guest of honour at a gala dinner at the East London ICC for the first national presentation of the projects to coastal municipalities and investors.

He told Saturday Dispatch old “admiralty” land, and other state-owned coastal properties would be put out for development at every coastal municipality.

The plans were drawn up by technical groups over the last 18 months.

China is showing interest in the work of the small harbours and coastline development unit, which is working under the aegis of Operation Phakisa, which is steering the oceans’ economy policy.

Nxesi said China, acting in terms of the five- to 10-year bilateral agreement with South Africa, had paid R537-million towards feasibility studies and high-level designs for the envisioned new Port St Johns, Port Edward and Port Nolloth small harbours.

Details were not being shared with the public yet, but Govender said the PSJ harbour was a national priority.

The new harbour would be at the centre of an entire economic zonal plan for the town and would encapsulate land owned by all government departments.

Turning to Gonubie, he told Saturday Dispatch: “We identified Gonubie as a project and it was endorsed [at the ICC conference] meaning we identified a project type, now we will move to have an investor conference in June, and they will respond.”

He said the idea was to create a yacht and recreational and commercial fishing harbour in Gonubie in order to reduce congestion in East London harbour.

He said interest in the Gonubie harbour had already been shown by a large black-owned group. “We can use this as a kick-start.”

He said all business was invited to invest and there was lots of room for smaller businesses as empowerment companies could expect to get shares of up to 49% in the new ventures.

Government is embarking on its third attempt to turn Latimer’s Landing into a waterside entertainment area.

This time, Govender said, “we want to do it properly”.

Hamburg was identified as an aquaculture economic zone, and this would be enhanced, while state properties in Port Alfred would be used to drum up new development proposals, he said.

Les Holbrook, executive director of the Border-Kei Chamber of Business said he was not invited to the gala dinner and he warned that such an important department as Public Works should not make decisions “and then tell business to go on and be happy and make it work”.

“We can’t have waterfront developments at all these places.”

Holbrook called for more openness saying it was an unhealthy habit for government and state-owned enterprises to “huddle behind closed doors, make decisions, announce these publicly and then there is amazement when they don’t work or the private sector poses, or worse, challenges those decisions with lots of questions”.

“No one on this side of the port was consulted.”

Small craft harbours were quite possible, said Holbrook, “but not just because someone said it was a good idea”.

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