BY MWAKERA MWAJEFA
Coast leaders have vowed to oppose any privatisation of the Port of Mombasa that does not guarantee the full ownership or running of the facility by Kenyans.
Leading this onslaught is the Kisauni MP Ali Mbogo who questioned the credibility of Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) saying it has only managed to create only 38,000 jobs where it operates port facilities.
“How can this company through the revival of Kenya National Shipping Line (KNSL) create 200,000 jobs within three years as it claims?” he poses.
Speaking during the Kenya Ports Authority’s Iftar at Mbarak Sports Club on June 3, Mr Mbogo claimed there is a certain prominent family pushing for the privatisation of Second Container Terminal for personal gain.
“As Coastal leadership, we cannot be hoodwinked into supporting a course that will not benefit either the region or the country at large,” he added.
Saying this will only happen on their dead bodies, the first-time MP gave the example of Djibouti which he was currently fighting to reclaim its port after incurring losses from privatisation management.
Of the same opinion attending the function who warned the government to go-slow on the privatisation issue were Senator Mohamed Faki (Mombasa), Omar Mwinyi (Changamwe), Badi Twalib (Jomvu) and Mishi Mboko (Likoni).
The legislators expressed concern over the proposed amendments to the Merchant Shipping Act that would give powers to the Transport cabinet secretary to nominate that would run the Sh27 billion’s container terminal.
“Any privatisation of the port that will have an adverse effect on the workers or the country, we will say a big no,” said Ms Mboko.
She wants the expansion of Bandari College’s curriculum so that Kenyans can stop going to either South Africa or Tanzania for maritime studies.
Saying the port is the backbone of Mombasa County’s economy, Senator Faki requested the KPA management and the national government to allow the county receive a dollar (US) per every ton of cargo using the facility.
Those opposed to the privatisation of the Second Container Terminal claim this will cause at least 4,000 workers to lose their jobs should the KNSL be allowed to run it.
On Sunday, Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri) officials, Dockworkers Union members and local leaders took to the streets to protest against the alleged plans to privatise the income generating terminal.
The Kisauni lawmaker, who joined the march, claimed senior government officials were behind the scheme and MSC was just a front for a company, TIL, that would be given the terminal to run.
Although the KNSL is a parastatal, the MP questioned why the MSC, owned by an Italian family, has bought majority shares of the parastatal.
But the Maritime and Shipping principal secretary Nancy Karigithu denied the claim about the majority shares saying KPA was the majority shareholder in KNSL.
The protesters’ leadership queried the rationale of giving the facility that makes Sh19 billion a year to a private firm only for the government to receive Sh2 billion a year as revenue as ‘mind boggling’.
However, the privatisation issue has split the giant DWU into two camps with the one led by the chairman Mohamed Sheria accusing the general secretary Simon Sang of spreading lies to appeal his ‘sponsors’.
He termed Sang’s Sunday demo as illegal and his own machination as it was not sanctioned by the union’s organs and leadership.
In his 1999 World Maritime University dissertation, Privatisation of Kenya Ports Authority: its socioeconomic impact, Mwambire noted the process of privatising KPA kicked off in 1998 through the pronouncement of then Transport and Communication minister the late William ole Ntimama.
Privatisation being a new phenomenon in Kenya, the researcher observed that the process would be done apace while learning all the essential lessons world-wide before implementing the same.
According to the researcher by contracting the general cargo handling services to private operators may provide the ideal situation in transforming authority to focus on a commercial oriented approach rather than its current state of being a public service provider.
In his study, he noted that factors of profit and loss are not considered as such towards its (KPA’s) survival as the government was willing to subsidise should anything go wrong.