‘Amazon investment is of huge strategic importance to the Western Cape’ – WC Provincial Minister David Maynier

In April, multinational tech and retail giant Amazon announced that it would locate its South African headquarters in the new R4bn Cape Town development, named River Club. The creation of thousands of jobs was amongst the many benefits to flow from the development. However, the development – owned by the Liesbeek Leisure Property Trust (LLPT) – has since come under fire for being ‘profit-driven’ and at the expense of cultural heritage. David Maynier, the Western Cape Provincial Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, joined the BizNews Power Hour during which he discussed Amazon’s impending venture, which he believes to be of ‘huge strategic importance to the Western Cape.’ Maynier further commented on both Zuma’s ConCourt sentencing and the direction of the Port of Cape Town’s efficient, which he regards with optimism. – Nadya Swart

On the report earlier this year which stated that South African ports are among the worst in the world:

Well, the World Bank, as you said, fairly recently released a report on container performance and set out an index. The Port of Cape Town, if I recall correctly, was the 347th, if you like, most efficient port when it came to container performance, which, of course, is dismal. Now, to be fair, I think to the Port Authority – the data was drawn, I think, in roughly about June last year when we were at the height of the pandemic and where, to be frank, the port was in real trouble. But regardless of the index, the truth of the matter is [that] it supports the general conclusion that there are significant port inefficiencies in the Port of Cape Town. 

On addressing these inefficiencies as a Provincial Minister:

We are constrained by the fact that we are not national government, and the port, of course, is within the remit of national government. But despite that, we’ve leaned in. We’ve set up a port stakeholders workshop where we have pulled in all the stakeholders; be they national government, local government, provincial government, and the private sector – all the stakeholders in the port logistics chain. And we have, I think, achieved quite a bit by simply collaborating with different spheres of government towards a common goal of achieving greater port efficiencies in the Port of Cape Town.

On whether port efficiency is moving in the right direction:

I do think so. I’ve been an outspoken critic of port efficiencies because, of course, it is a handbrake on the economy, especially the export economy and the competitiveness of the economy in the Western Cape. But I do think that we are starting to move in the right direction. And I say that for two reasons. I have to give Velile Dube – who is the newly appointed CEO of Transnet Port Terminals – credit. He has implemented a short-term plan to improve port efficiencies, which does seem to be paying dividends.

That port is really focusing on five measures. They’ve certainly done a lot to improve stakeholder communication; regularly meeting with all the stakeholders. They’ve started to improve terminal efficiencies by, for example, bringing in four new rubber tired gantries. They’ve started to increase the utilisation of rail from land with ports like Balcon. They’ve started to deal with truck congestion by implementing a new booking system. And at the end of the day, they’re starting to improve back of port efficiencies by, for example, extending operating hours and starting to explore night runs. So I have to give the Port Authority some credit.

There have been short-term measures or measures implemented in the short term, which I think are starting to improve port efficiency. But at the end of the day, I think what makes me possibly more optimistic than I’ve been in a long time about the port environment is the announcement made by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week, of course, that the Transnet National Port Authority would be established. And if you cut down to the chase, what is essentially, I think, now finally being proposed is a new model where essentially Transnet will be the land owner and there will be space for private sector port operators in ports across South Africa, which in my view is a huge step forward in South Africa. 

On Amazon establishing its new head office of Southern Africa in Cape Town:

The Amazon investment is of huge strategic importance to the Western Cape. They’re one of the biggest employers in the Western Cape. And there have been various sort of objections to the new investment. But we are certainly, together with the city of Cape Town, going to do everything that we can to unblock that process and ensure that the investment goes ahead in the city of Cape Town.

On what Amazon does from Cape Town:

Well, Amazon is a huge employer and I recall in the middle of the pandemic, at the height of the, if you like, despair about the state of the economy last year – Amazon put out a statement to say that they were looking to employ 3,000 new hires. And these are particularly young people in the tech sector. And so they are an absolutely vital investment for the city of Cape Town and for the Western Cape.

This is Amazon Web Services, and they are in the business of supporting various businesses with their back in tech. But they are not in the business of moving boxes. Most importantly, from my point of view, they are in the business of employing more people, especially young people in the Western Cape.

On the Constitutional Court ruling that Jacob Zuma be sentenced to 15 months imprisonment:

I think it’s a big moment. For years, former President Jacob Zuma has argued that he would like his day in court and that he doesn’t fear prison. Well, it’s all now come to fruition. And yes, I think he will be going to prison. And I think that that is important because it establishes, reestablishing the rule of law in South Africa. There could, of course, be some downside, because it is possible that his eventual imprisonment will intensify the rivalry – possibly, I think, even the civil war within the governing party. And I think they could then be risks to the kind of reform momentum that has been built up in recent months by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

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