FACED with the looming threat of losing the use of Transnet land, a successful business development centre is scrambling to secure the future of 68 small businesses and 360 jobs.
Established in the early 1990s as a public benefit organisation on 10000m² of Transnet land in Grahamstown Road, Port Elizabeth, the Comsec enterprise development centre has assisted scores of start-up businesses.
It has also mentored businesses and continues to provide a wide range of services, including skills transfers, in Port Elizabeth and in surrounding rural areas.
The organisation and the businesses now face an uncertain future after a decision by Transnet not to renew or renegotiate its 20-year lease which expires in June, 2014. Former Port Elizabeth deputy mayor Errol Heynes, who is on the Comsec board of trustees, and fellow trustee and former Comsec executive director Ricardo Dames said this week they had been in negotiations with Transnet for the past two years.
According to Heynes it appeared as if Transnet, by not renewing the lease, wanted to step in as landlord for the businesses, many of them subsidised and assisted through Comsec.
"The effect of this is that Comsec will lose the current business model and modus operandi which are directed at assisting businesses and that once under a new landlord, these businesses will be at the mercy of Transnet's lease or occupation conditions."
According to Dames, who said that purchasing the property was not an option at this point, other objections to the cessation of the lease included that roughly R5-million had been spent on the building by Comsec. Improvements included electrical and water reticulation systems and work on altering and repairing the building. The trustees said they were now exploring other options.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Transnet chief operating officer Phuthego Dikgole said he was not in a position to comment and referred The Herald to Transnet communications officers who were not available for comment before going to press.