Public Enterprises Minister, Malusi Gigaba, delivered yesterday the 100th salt wagon produced at Transnet’s manufacturing plant in Uitenhage for Botswana Rail in what is seen as advancing regional economic cooperation.
This places the Eastern Cape region at the centre of Transnet’s plans to accelerate its sales of heavy equipment to the rest of Africa.
The delivery is part of an initial 260-wagon order for specialised wagons to convey bulk chemical grade salt from Sua Pan in Botswana to Sasol’s factories in South Africa. In total, Botswana Rail has ordered 562 wagons for manufacturing. These are being designed, engineered and produced at Transnet Rail Engineering’s manufacturing plant in Uitenhage – just outside Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.
Speaking at an event to mark the completion of the first batch of wagons, Minister Gigaba said the partnership between Transnet and Botswana Rail signalled the beginning of the new approach to intra-regional co-operation to drive Africa’s economy.
In addition to Uitenhage, Transnet has manufacturing plants in Koedoespoort, Pretoria, for locomotives in partnership with original equipment manufacturers, Salt River in the Western Cape for coaches, wheels and other rolling stock components and Bloemfontein among others.
“We will exploit Transnet Rail Engineering’s significant capacity and competence with regards to heavy engineering, especially in rail and port equipment manufacturing to drive Africa’s industrialisation and therefore economic growth,” the Minister added.
For Transnet, he said, opportunities or partnerships like these will go a long way towards diversifying Transnet Rail Engineering’s revenue through increased sales to external clients.
Minister Gigaba has developed an Africa Strategy to guide state-owned companies under his department, including Transnet, SAA, Eskom and arms manufacturer, Denel. The strategy targets various countries including Angola, Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania.
The Botswana Rail agreement follows the successful execution of an order for 200 wagons for mining giant Rio Tinto’s operations in Mozambique at the same plant. The two awards are in line with Transnet’s Africa Strategy, which is likely to be presented to the Board and Shareholder for approval before the end of the current financial year.
The project included the development of two new prototype car-transport wagons with adjustable hydraulic top decks in line with specific requirements from the customer – one of Transnet’s greatest engineering achievements.
Encouragingly, Transnet Rail Engineering was awarded the contract through an open tender, confirming that the Uitenhage plant has the capacity and ability to compete with the best rolling stock manufacturers around the world. The facility, which employs about 1500 people, is one of the largest wagon refurbishment and new-build plants in Africa.
In line with Transnet’s commitment to the development of local suppliers and supporting industries and the government’s economic and developmental objectives, the company, through its Competitive Supplier Development Programme, sources most raw materials and components to manufacture the wagons locally. If not, these are built in-house.