Cosatu cautiously welcomes CEF’s refinery purchase 

Trade union federation Cosatu is treating the recent acquisition of the South African Petroleum Refineries (Sapref) by the Central Energy Fund (CEF) with caution. 

At least 800 people lost their jobs when the refinery, located in Durban and was the largest crude oil refinery in Southern Africa with at least 35% of the country’s refinery capacity,  stopped operations in 2022. 

Last month the CEF, a state-owned entity, which reports to the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, bought the refinery raising hopes of job creation. 

“We are aware that the purchase agreement has been concluded. Cosatu believes this is good news for reviving the hundreds of jobs that were lost when the plant closed down.  

“But we also want more discussions about beneficiation,” Edwin Mkhize, Cosatu general secretary in KwaZulu-Natal, told Sunday World. 

The February 2022 floods which ravaged most parts of the province was the final nail which brought Sapref to its knees. 

The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government later tabled an offer to purchase the plant and held advanced talks with Treasury on putting a bid for the acquisition of the oldest plant established in 1963. 

Mkhize said workers should not be treated as spectators only good for providing their labour and forced to survive on salaries.  

“Workers must not be kept on the sidelines. They must be given a stake and be active players in the running of Sapref,” Mkhize elaborated.  

The refinery’s products include petrol, jet fuel, liquid petroleum gas, paraffin and marine fuel among others. 

The sale to the CEF includes strategic assets and product tanks, pipelines and process units from Sapref to Island View terminal and the Single Buoy Mooring for crude imports.  

The sale, however, excludes Sapref (Pty) Ltd, BP’s marketing businesses, the Island View terminal Operations and the lubricants blending and grease manufacturer, Blendcor (Pty) Ltd.  

CEF is entrusted with the responsibility of securing energy supply for the country to stimulate the economy. 

The Department of Minerals and Energy said the granular details of the sale, including the role of labour, was a work in progress. “The acquisition of these assets will form the hallmark of CEF’s investment and growth strategy in the energy value chain geared to lay a  foundation to address the challenges that lie ahead in the security of South Africa’s energy future.”  

It explained that the acquisition augured well with arresting the country’s declining refining capacity.  

“The status quo resulted in the country becoming a net importer of refined petroleum products. This new emerging trend was not only threatening the country’s economic stability and security of supply of petroleum products but also meant the exportation of jobs that are so needed in the country.” 

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