Yet another South African yacht club is set to be evicted from its berth inside a state-owned harbour following a court ruling last week in favour of Transnet, the National Ports Regulator.
The Mossel Bay Boat and Yacht Club has until the end of May to vacate its clubhouse and marina facilities to make way for a new business operator. The club lost its court bid to reverse Transnet's decision to transfer their expired lease to the new operator.
The eviction follows a similar court order against the Algoa Bay Yacht Club, which is being evicted from Port Elizabeth harbour about 400km east of Mossel Bay.
Historically sports clubs have enjoyed lower rentals inside South African ports due to their public benefit focus, but in recent years Transnet has introduced market-related rates. While clubs say the price hike is unfair, Transnet insists it is in line with their core mandate of managing state assets along commercial lines.
Many maritime stakeholders believe Transnet’s stance contradicts government’s stated intention to develop yachting and boat-building as key components of the maritime economy. Some fear sailing is considered too elitist despite several successful sailing development programmes involving previously disadvantaged communities.
In a statement issued last week Port of Mossel Bay Port Manager, Shadrack Tshikalange, welcomed the judgement. “We are confident that this decision will enable the port and the new lessee – through its strong business model – to provide all members of society with an equal opportunity to participate in port activities.
“This is in line with TNPA’s Smart People’s Ports vision, which includes promoting greater public access and ensuring a vibrant port system that connects local communities to port activities,” Tshikalange said.
In a statement Transnet said the Ports Authority “operates within a legislative and regulatory environment created by the National Ports Act No.12 of 2005.
“This requires the Authority to follow a public process for service providers looking to provide port services and facilities,” the statement said.
In a public post on their website, the Mossel Bay Yacht and Boat Club said it was studying the court ruling with a view to a possible appeal.