When Transnet announced a week or two ago that it would concession out the country's busiest and most important rail corridor for 20 years to a private company, markets, politicians, the ANC, business, labour, the Presidency, and even the deputy minister of public enterprises was stunned.
The call to the market for a 20-year lease on the Durban to Johannesburg container line published on the last Friday of January surprised everyone. Questioned by annoyed ANC MPs at a parliamentary committee meeting last week, Deputy Minister Phumulo Masualle said the ministry knew nothing about it and "had asked Transnet for a thorough explanation".
The rail concession is the biggest privatisation since 1997, when a chunk of Telkom was sold to a foreign consortium. But, despite the intense contestation in the ANC and from trade unions, that comes with talk of privatisation, nobody had an inkling that it was in the works.