The roots of Transnet can be
traced back to humble beginnings in the late 1850s, when railway
transport was proposed for the harbours in the Cape and Natal.
The real catalyst for the country’s railway and harbour expansion, can
be attributed to the discovery of diamonds in Kimberly in 1867.
South Africa’s state railway system began when the two pioneer railway
systems situated in the Cape and Natal became government property in
1872 and 1877 respectively, thus completing the relatively primitive
harbours in Durban and Cape Town. Scarcely nine years after the founding
of the government railways, both which were rapidly pushed to Kimberly,
rumours of massive gold deposits in the Transvaal Republic were
confirmed. Almost overnight, economic power had shifted from the
colonial south to the republican north.
In 1910 Union was achieved, with the country’s leaders adamant that
the railways and harbours should be used to unify and develop South
Africa’s economy. The result – the South African Railways and Harbours
administration (SAR&H) becoming a proud established arm of the
A mere 20 years after the establishment of Union, in 1930, South
Africa had established itself as a proud and mobile nation. This
achievement can be accredited to the opening of efficient mainline
passenger links and an impressive network of urban and metropolitan
During the 1970s it was agreed upon by the government that the SAR&H
should restructure itself along defined business lines. Integral to the
process was a change in the name and image of the
organisation, which would appropriately reflect its new vision
and mission as a successful state business enterprise. In 1981, the
country’s railway, harbour, road transport, aviation and pipeline
operations became known as South African Transport Services (SATS). At
the same time, the enterprise was restructured into units and divisions,
with a strong emphasis on localized management.
By the end of 1989, the goal of managing SATS as a private entity was well
within reach, and on 1 April 1990, after 80 years of government and
parliamentary control, SATS was given company status. A new, limited liability
company, representing a vast transport network, was finally born. Its name was
Transnet SOC Ltd.
Transnet SOC Ltd
Since 1994, Transnet has kept pace with a fast-changing society,
dealing with a multitude of challenges in an emerging democracy. Transnet,
realising these challenges, has met them head-on by investing heavily in
infrastructure and integrating and coordinating
programmes within the country.
The South African transport system has come a long way from its humble
beginnings in the 1800s. This can be attributed to Transnet playing a
vital role not only in everyday life, but in the national economy and
economics of several other African states that use the networks and
harbours within South African to transfer their imports and exports.