Zuma’s plan for navy dockyard a good idea – except for Chinese involvement‚ says expert


Zuma’s plan for navy dockyard a good idea – except for Chinese involvement‚ says expert

Graeme Hosken | 2017-02-12 15:39:38.0

Simon’s Town naval base. File photo.

Image by: Thabiso Makelo via Google photos

South Africa’s Simon’s Town naval base will become the “garage” for the maintenance of government’s maritime fleets.

This‚ announced by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation Address on Friday‚ is set to inject billions of rands in maritime development and skills training.

But‚ while cautiously welcomed‚ the announcement does not come without concerns‚ especially around Chinese companies potentially gaining a foothold in the planned project.

Zuma‚ in his speech said: “In 2014 we launched the Operation Phakisa. The purpose was to find a few key projects [which include projects in ocean economics and mining] where we could unlock growth in implementing the National Development Plan.”

He said the navy‚ which was participating in Phakisa‚ was preparing to host the government garage concept for all state-owned vessels in Simon’s Town.

This‚ he said‚ included the maintenance and repair of government-owned vessels‚ through the newly established South African Navy-Armscor-Denel partnership.

The concerns though are around a recent signing of a memorandum of understanding between Denel and Chinese business‚ Poly Technologies.

The agreement‚ signed in September‚ is focused on Simon’s Town’s dockyard management and helping to rebuild the country’s maritime capabilities.

The memorandum has positioned the two businesses well in terms of securing construction deals for the building of off-shore and in-shore naval maritime patrol boats‚ which the navy desperately require.

Defence analyst Helmoed Heitman said the move to create a “maritime garage” was a good idea.

“This is long overdue. There is a desperate need for such a facility and it will be an excellent use of the dockyard and those that work there.”

He however cautioned against allowing the Chinese “or any other foreign power” to gain a foothold in a strategic asset such as a naval and government run dockyard‚ especially as South Africa has the private entities who are experts in ship and maritime repairs.

“To bring a foreign power in to such a facility would be to invite problems.”

– TMG Digital/The Times

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