SOE What?: Imagine if Transnet came to the table on Culemborg @mgigaba

Imagine  the synergies of this land parcel if Transnet & the National Ports Authority decided to come to the table, to work with local & provincial governments and the V&A Waterfront Company, in developing a long term vision for this site.

According to an article entitled “Have your say, urges State review body”, which appeared on, the presidential review committee is calling for public comment/submissions in relation to the review of State Owned Enterprises e.g. Transnet. The positive news is that the President, Jacob Zuma, wants the role or mandate of SOE’s to be defined by the public. (although this may be optimistic) To “strike the  balance required between commercial, developmental and shareholder objectives”, may require some innovation on the part of an entity like Transnet.

As an example, consider Culemborg, the vast and strategic site stretching from Observatory to the Cape Town CBD. For decades now the claim by Transnet, has been that Culemborg is “strategic land parcel” and hence cannot be released as an opportunity e.g. for redevelopment through an urban development partnership.  The land acts as bottleneck on the city and appropriate developments could achieve greater urban efficiency and the much needed expansion of CBD (Throw in some densification?). The case for well located affordable and inclusionary housing would be further strengthened, if this land is released alongside plans for the redevelopment of District 6.

Just a short bus ride on the new MyCiTi bus confirm that like many other state land assets (vacant land and property), Culemborg is underutilized and degraded. Ironically, this works against the National Treasury funded BRT route which now runs alongside the site.  Furthermore, the strategic location, on the edge of the CBD, alongside the harbour and linked to major roads and rail lines, means the potential to unlock the value of the site and promote urban expansion may not be as challenging.

With its excellent connections to both the road and rail systems, Culemborg is very well situated for advantageous development. A mixture of commercial, retail, residential, cultural and institutional buildings – and many others – could turn a barren wasteland into something infinitely more agreeable than a container storage depot. – Erik Schaug, Cape Times, October 8, 2007

Statistics in 2007 showed that at the time Transnet, owned 67% of non-core property. Now 2011, with the Culemborg site remaining dormant, and job creation finally a key goal of government, is it not the right time for this SOE to divest this non-core asset(s), in a similar fashion to the sale of the V&A Waterfront?

The exact form of the partnership to develop this site will not be without its challenges, and thus requires much thought. Should it be disposed of to the highest bidder, as the City of Cape Town has, with several key land parcels? Or perhaps a joint development with 1 or several developers, helping to share the risk. Should the PIC take the lead with the guidance of a property development team or should the proposed Western Cape Economic Development Agency embark on its first major project?

Undoubtedly, the City of Cape Town & Provincial government of the Western Cape can play a key role in leading the process for a shared and consensual vision for Culemborg, but will Transnet ever come to the table?

Have your say: The deadline for submissions is Friday July 31. Submissions should be emailed to Godwin Ounoha at, or to Bheki Mfeka at or

Cape Town – The presidential review committee (PRC) on state-owned-entities (SOEs) has appealed for public submissions and contributions to the review of SOEs, the presidency said on Monday.

The committee, chaired by Riah Phiyega, was established by President Jacob Zuma to ensure that SOEs respond to a defined public mandate and support the government’s developmental aspirations.

It will review the definition of SOEs and their contribution to human capital development, with particular reference to the development of scarce skills, and their reporting and accounting practices.

It will propose sustainable SOE business models which strike a balance between commercial, developmental and shareholder objectives.

The PRC will also review the collaboration between government ministries and SOEs, consider proposals for the