Address by President Zuma at Trans Africa locomotive launch, Transnet Engineering Factory Site, Koedoespoort

The Minister of Public Enterprises, Ms Lynne Brown,

Deputy Minister Ben Martins,

Chairperson of the Transnet board, Ms Linda Mabaso and Board members,

Group Chief Executive of Transnet, Mr Siyabonga Gama and management,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning to you all as we begin Freedom Month.

This month we look back at the gains we have made since the dawn of democracy.

Some of the critical achievements are in the economic arena, especially regarding infrastructure development.

It is important therefore, that we are today launching this locomotive.

Over the past 10 years, South Africa has grappled with the effects of a global economic downturn. We looked to some of our giant state-owned companies to keep the wheels turning during this difficult period.

Companies such as Transnet and Eskom, with combined assets of more than Eight Hundred Billion Rands, not only employ masses of our people but also, crucially, drive infrastructure development.

They are at the forefront of technical innovation and the development of valuable African markets.

What Transnet is showing us today is that it has the skills and far-sightedness to extend itself beyond its traditional strengths to include new value-added services in the logistics supply chain.

In April 2014, Transnet announced the awarding of a fifty billion rand contract for the building of one thousand and sixty four diesel and electric locomotives.

The majority of the locomotives are built at facilities here in Koedoespoort and also in Durban. Sixty percent of their components are locally manufactured.

This is important with regards to promoting domestic competitiveness and economic growth as well as job creation.

The Trans-Africa Locomotive project has provided an opportunity for Transnet to grow and diversify its business.

Transnet research showed that there was a particular regional demand for a relatively light and efficient locomotive that could ride these tracks, and navigate their twists and turns.

It is an African solution for an African problem, specifically developed with African conditions in mind.

The engineers responsible for the project have many years' experience modifying locomotives to meet unique African conditions.

The Trans Africa Locomotive development presented an opportunity to put their great pool of knowledge into practice, and they have done us very proud.

The locomotive they have developed is a general purpose machine that is ideal for South African branch lines.

It is also the perfect fit for most of the main lines in the SADC region, where infrastructure prevents the use of heavier locomotives which are more difficult to manoeuvre.

The completion of this locomotive is a significant technological achievement by Transnet and the country. We appreciate Transnet's drive to become the leading provider of logistics services in sub-Saharan Africa.

We must continue working hard to develop infrastructure that promotes trade among African countries and which make it easier for us to visit one another and also boost economic growth and development.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the past week I made changes to the national executive. We expect the changes to add renewed energy into Cabinet and the executive as a whole.

We are proud of having added many young Ministers which is an investment into the future of government leadership. If we do not enable our young MPs to gain experience now, we may battle in future with leadership and governance experience within the national executive. We congratulate all new appointees once again.

With regards to the Finance portfolio, we reiterate that while the political leadership has changed, government's overall policy orientation remains the same as derived from the governing party, the African National Congress.

We also wish to emphasise that Government has been, and will remain, committed to a measured fiscal consolidation that stabilises the rise in public debt.

We extend our gratitude and appreciation to Minister Pravin Gordhan and Deputy Minister Mcebisi Jonas for their contribution to strengthening the National Treasury and the Finance portfolio.

We also thank former Minister Gordhan for ensuring a smooth transition. Mr Gordhan is officially handing over to Minister Malusi Gigaba this morning.

This shows the maturity of leadership within the governing party. We appreciate the determination by both leaders to ensure continuity and unity within the portfolio.

A united and stable National Treasury and Finance portfolio as a whole is absolutely critical for government and the country.

I have directed Minister Gigaba and Deputy Minister Sifiso Buthelezi to immediately prioritise unity, peace, cohesion and stability within the Finance portfolio. This will enable all components of the portfolio to focus on the tasks at hand.

It is also more important than ever now that we unite as a country and work together in light of the unrelenting socio-economic challenges that we face.

We will continue to work with business and labour to take forward the work of the CEO Initiative that was established last year to reignite growth, while also strengthening the Presidential Business Working Group where we interact with all components of business.

Minister Gigaba and his team will also be reaching out to the international investor community urgently to assure them that South Africa remains a stable, reliable and competitive investment destination. They will build on the good work that has been done thus far.

Most importantly, we assure our people that government will do everything possible to promote cohesion, unity and efficiency in government. We know that public statements which indicate disagreements within government by Ministers for example, demoralise our people and create confusion.

This is a serious weakness and we shall attend to it within renewed vigour.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Since 2008, Africa has seen an average of five percent annual real GDP growth on average. That is more than twice the pace of the 80s and 90s, and ranks our beloved continent among the fastest growing economic regions in the world.

South Africa must position itself to benefit from this market especially during our difficult economic times.

The focus on Africa continues to be a priority, hence the launch of this locomotive today.

We have also stated that we need to re-focus and reprioritise in order to radically transform our economy, as decided by the governing party in 2012.

We thus remain firm in our call that the economy needs to include the black majority in the ownership and control, so that we can have sustainability into the future.

We will work with the private sector and labour to achieve the goals of meaningful radical economic transformation, including state owned enterprises like Transnet.

Let me congratulate you Minister and your team on this successful project. Our infrastructure development project will certainly make a difference not only in our country but beyond our borders as well in the continent.

It is my pleasure to officially launch the TransAfrica Locomotive!

I thank you.

Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa