Truckers are fed up

2010-03-06 12:23

EMERGING road freight business people this week voiced their concerns about the slow pace of transformation in the ­industry.

The SA Owner Drivers Empowerment Federation (Saodef), a body representing small enterprises in the road freight sector, accused the transport department of not doing enough to advance the interests of black emerging businesses.

This complaint comes 17 months after the industry and the government made a commitment to giving new entrants a ­leg-up.

“The transport department made several promises but it has not delivered since the charter was launched,” said Saodef president Lennox Magwaza.

He said the government had not created a fund to accommodate the needs of small entrepreneurs who want to acquire new trucks and enter the industry.

He also accused the Department of Transport (DoT) of not delivering on its promise to roll out road shows in all provinces last year to conscientise big road freight players on the benefits of transforming the industry.

But DoT spokesperson Sam Monareng said not much activity had been visible after the launch of the transport charter because the document only became legally binding last August.

He said the process had been slow partly because the charter will only start requiring road freight players to produce verification certificates from July to demonstrate their empowerment status when doing business with government entities.

“The DoT and department of trade and industry are in the process of ensuring that the charter is legally binding and shows commitment towards ensuring that the objectives of the charter are achieved by the industry operators,” he said.

Monareng said emerging entrepreneurs could take advantage of a fund set up by the state-run financier, the Industrial Development Corporation, with banking group Absa.

But Magwaza said this fund largely discriminated against emerging businesses.

“There is a clause stating that a firm can only secure funding if it secures a five-year direct bankable contract.

“We have been in this industry for years and there has never been any big company or parastatal that has given a five-year ­direct contract to a small business.

“That is why we say the fund is not ­designed to suit small businesses,” said Magwaza.

Monareng said the transport department rolled out four road shows relating to the charter in Gauteng, Free State, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga last year.

Similar road shows are planned for other provinces in coming months.

“The road show plan is an ongoing process to ensure that transport operators and the general public have access to information on empowerment opportunities available within the transport industry.”

The transformation charter targets include a stipulation that white­-controlled companies have to transfer 25% of their business to black investors by 2013.

It also stipulates that companies must increase the representation of black people in senior management positions to at least 53% and says 26% of those top jobs should be occupied by women.

Monareng said a survey looking at the transformation levels in both the public and private sectors since 2008 would be commissioned soon.

Saodef members have also experienced difficulties in doing business with unscrupulous companies.

Last year some members won contracts in Mpumalanga to transport coal from mines. However, the deals went sour after the coal mines failed to pay for the service for up to three months.

“Big companies have been exploiting us and we can’t take them to court because we don’t have the money to pay for the legal fees,” he said.

Magwaza suggested that the government should consider appointing an ombudsman who could swiftly resolve cases relating to payment to small businesses.

He said the ombudsman should have powers to monitor whether parastatals like Eskom and Transnet focused on giving tenders to small businesses.

Saodef appears to have the sympathy of transport analyst Paul Browning.

He said he did not know of any ­concerted effort to make the charter a ­success.

“What is happening is like passing a law which no one takes any notice of,” he said.

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