Freight lines, coal logistics under threat as attacks tear through SA’s KwaZulu-Natal

VIOLENT attacks on retail centres, industrial assets, and infrastructure in KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa could cripple the country’s freight logistics, said BusinessLive citing the state-run company, Transnet.

The Durban and Richards Bay ports have been negatively affected as the “entire supply chain is closed”, including the roads leading into and out of the ports, the publication said.

Transnet has declared a force majeure on the 688km line that links Durban and Gauteng. It is regarded as the most important general freight rail route in South Africa, said BusinessLive.

Work attendance was a growing problem. The protests, which had claimed the lives of 72 people as of Wednesday, have interrupted food and fuel supplies to residential homes. Port employees were focusing on securing their domestic security, BusinessLive said.

There were not enough people to load and unload ships, move cargo around and plan operations, bringing the two harbours to a virtual standstill, it said.

Mpumi Sithole, spokeswoman for Thungela Resources, South Africa’s largest exporter of coal, told BusinessLive that the Richards Bay Coal Terminal continued to operate efficiently in offloading trains coming into the terminal and loading vessels.

However, services at the Richards Bay port had been affected by low labour turnout, resulting in no vessel movement over the previous 24 hours.


Transnet has endured a difficult year so far.

It recently reported a second derailment this month. The first, on July 3 involving a train transporting coal to RBCT, led to suggestions by management that sabotage orchestrated by contractors might be the cause.

The civil disruption began following the imprisonment of former South African president, Jacob Zuma on July 7 who was found guilty of contempt of court by the Constitutional Court.  Since Zuma’s arrest last week and the high court’s denial of his appeal on Friday, protests have spread to major cities and townships in South Africa.

The protests have since degenerated into violent looting resulting in chaos in Durban and Johannesburg. Some mines have shut whilst the country’s largest oil refinery, Sapref, has been temporarily shut. The Minerals Council said on Wednesday the civil disorder would have a lasting negative impact on South Africa.