Vol. 11 No. 71                                                                                                            Wednesday July 25, 2012


     Naples, Florida, is as unlikely a place as you might expect to meet someone who has seen it all and lived to tell about it, but there I was aboard a big dinner cruise boat—the kind that push gamblers out beyond U.S. jurisdiction to play games of chance and are also available to host company events—having a once-in-a-lifetime encounter.
     While everybody else was getting jolly at the open-deck cocktail hour, I was down below in the dining salon checking out the grub. It was there that I noticed a well-dressed gentleman, slight of frame, sitting at a corner table all by himself.
     I am not one to allow for loneliness at a party. It just doesn’t sit well with me. My instinct to engage was only further solidified by the fact that this perfectly nice looking gentleman was black. I must say, I cannot remember the last time I saw a black person at an air cargo event, let alone at a management level meeting or an industry party.
     My instinct to engage goes rather hand in hand with my desire to cut to the chase—a desire that has both expanded my horizons and perhaps at times put me in a pickle. Fortunately, that night was an adventure in the former.
     I walked right up to the gentleman and said:
     “We don’t see too many people of color at air cargo events.”
     His face broke into a broad grin, all smiling eyes, as he looked at me—Mr. American Cheese on White—and munching on a hard roll, laughed out loud and said:
     “I almost didn’t make it here… you know I am still on the TSA terrorist list?”
     “You know,” said his friend and host on the boat ride, Jo Frigger, (in photo left) CEO of EMO Trans, “you’re speaking to Sibusiso Peter-Paul Ngwenya, who spent plenty of time disturbing the peace, blowing up rail lines, and otherwise caused all manner of disruption in South Africa during Apartheid.”
     “I wasn’t easy,” said the 57-year-old Peter Paul.
     “I spent seven years of a fifteen year sentence in jail with Nelson Mandela and was not released from Robben Island until 1991.”
     There I was, riding on a dinner boat off the golden-age coast of white privileged Florida, speaking to a man who gave up part of his life to help millions and secure the freedom for what is now the new South Africa.
     Robben Island was first used as a political prison in the mid 17th century, a place that housed convicts, slaves, and indigenous people who would not adhere to colonial rule. For 30 years (from 1961-1991) it was used as a maximum-security prison for apartheid fighters. It is now a museum where visitors can see the 7-by-9-foot cell that held Nelson Mandela, a room that Mandela wrote about in Long Walk to Freedom: “When I lay down, I could feel the wall with my feet and my head grazed the concrete on the other side.”
     Today Peter Paul’s selfless patriotism to South Africa has developed into several business ventures, including Engen, South African Breweries, and the investment company Makana Trust, where he is a founding trustee and former chairman.
     He later co-founded Makana Investment Corporation, of which he is the current executive chairman.
     Peter-Paul is the treasurer of the Ex-Political Prisoners Committee.
     He is also the chairman of South African Airlink, radio stations Heart 104.9 and Igagasi 99.5, and Sebenza Forwarding and Shipping Consultancy.
     Sebenza Forwarding and its long standing partnership with EMO Trans has brought him this day all the way from the head office in Johannesburg via Dubai to Naples, Florida.
     “You know,” Peter Paul confided, “we have a real challenge with our forwarding business.
     “When Apartheid ended and the balance of business ownership and positions in various companies came to be more racially representative of more than 80 percent of the population, the move was to put people in positions they may have been less than qualified to hold.
     “Consequently, I am here in the USA looking for management-level expertise that is willing and qualified to both work and make a career in South Africa while we build our cargo infrastructure and expand our transportation expertise today and for future generations.
     “Our business in 2012 has not been that good; in fact, we are struggling.
     “But there are lots of opportunities in South Africa,” Peter Paul insisted.
     “Part of our problem is that there are so few trained people.
     “We have lost key people to various factors, including to the competition, so replacement is quite difficult.
     “South Africa is a major trading partner to other African countries, including for example, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

     “With continued interest in the African market from everywhere else in the world, the talent pool for logistics personnel is greatly challenged for everyone at home.”
     Looking ahead, Peter Paul just put the finishing touches on an autobiography of his life, expected out later this year.
     Here is a man whose life began in poverty and repression, and who has now blossomed into generating business and creating civic greatness in his homeland. His pride and strength were instantly recognizable just in talking to him.
     It is too easy to overlook people like Peter Paul, because they make what they do look so simple.
     We are so glad that didn’t happen on that big party boat in Florida, when the great Peter Paul and his vision of a thousand tomorrows sat undetected, a quiet hero amid a crowd of revelers.

     If all goes well, in a few weeks the Indian aviation industry could be thrown a lifejacket that would possibly revive fortunes. The lifejacket would be the government nod to permit foreign airlines to take a stake in domestic carriers.
     The decision to open the gates for foreign carriers has been pending with the government for quite some time now. It was around March this year that the clamor to usher in foreign direct investment in the domestic aviation sector was created by Kingfisher Chairman and liquor baron Vijay Mallya. Down in the dumps and with a huge debt staring him in the face, Mallya was most eager for foreign direct investment (FDI). The carrier had to allow 34 of its planes to be taken away by the lessors because it could not repay the rental lease. Today, it operates only 20-odd daily flights on domestic routes and has requested the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to allow it to reduce flights by another 30 percent—this for an airline that before December 2011 had the second largest share in India's domestic air travel market.
     Whatever the pressures from Vijay Mallya (he is also a Member of Parliament), the government took its time and according to sources in the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the points of disagreement between the different ministries regarding FDI have now been ironed out. One of the major obstacles, for example, was the security factor that had been put up by the Home Ministry. The present rule that allows 49 percent stake in domestic airlines states that "no foreign airlines would be allowed to participate directly or indirectly in the equity of an air transport undertaking engaged in operating scheduled and non-scheduled air transport services, except cargo airlines" will be changed sufficiently to allow foreign airlines to pick up stakes.
     Ministry of Civil Aviation sources pointed out that domestic airlines in the country were interested in FDI.      In fact, this correspondent spoke to low-cost carrier SpiceJet's CEO Neil Mills, (right) and he said:
     "Taking a stake in SpiceJet is definitely an option from both Private Equity Investors, particularly from overseas and from foreign airlines.
     “For foreign airlines, SpiceJet is still a very interesting target because we have one of the best networks in India.
     “We carry 36,000 people a day and if they can actually do something to turn that into overseas passengers for their networks and accessing not merely the metros but also the Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities.
     “There are 34 airports now in India that we serve with 270 flights a day—domestically. It's a big network for somebody else to want to gain access to.
     “So for a foreign airline, it does have a lot of interest, particularly with the bilateral rights that are not available now for some of the foreign carriers."
     Indeed, India does offer a huge market and with air traffic growing at around 18 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR), the FDI would bring in rich rewards. Domestic airlines can bring in passenger and cargo from Tier-2 and Tier-3 towns to feed the international carriers. However, there are a few obstacles, like lack of infrastructure and the high cost of operations due to fuel costs.
     Among those that could be interested in picking up stakes in domestic carriers would be Etihad, Emirates, British Airways, which would be able to fill up its planes on the India-UK routes, Lufthansa, which would like its Asian business to grow now that the European one is stagnant, Singapore Airlines, which has been wanting to come in since the 1990s, Qatar Airways, which recently picked up stake in Cargolux, and even Air Asia, which recently stopped its flights to India because of high costs.
Tirthankar Ghosh

     “It's taken two centuries for women to sit in some of the most plum and not-so-plum spots in America, but a look back shows how fast the barriers are falling,” Working Woman Magazine wrote in 1996, releasing a chronicle of “female firsts” of the last 20 years.
     Sally Ride was at the top of that list.
     When Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman to travel into space, died Tuesday at age 61 of cancer, she left a great legacy for women. Her tireless effort as a national hero and a powerful role model remain, having flown the great Space Shuttle Cargo Ship Challenger (STS-7) July 19, 1983, and later teaching at the University of California, San Diego, where she was a professor of physics and director of the California Space Institute.
     Sally Ride was also the author of several books and was quite outspoken on the need to further science and math in school.
     She was the President and CEO of Sally Ride Science, a science education company that creates programs and products for students and teachers in elementary and middle school, with a focus on encouraging girls.
     “Sally's life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve, and I have no doubt that her legacy will endure for years to come," President Barack Obama said.
     "Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism—and literally changed the face of America's space program," declared NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
     "The nation has lost one of its finest leaders, teachers, and explorers.
     “Our thoughts and prayers are with Sally's family and the many she inspired.
     “She will be missed, but her star will always shine brightly."
     Writing Tuesday in The Daily Beast, Lynn Sherr, who covered the Space Shuttle program for ABC TV News, recalled:
     “America’s first female astronaut carried the dreams of her earthbound sisters into space, broke every rule she could, yet remained a team player—and was a hero and role model for all.
     “She acknowledged unequivocally that the feminist movement had made her selection possible; that NASA, with its 20-year heritage of white male fighter pilots with The Right Stuff, was finally doing the right thing.”
     Sally Ride once told a reporter:
     “I didn’t really think about it that much at the time . . . but I came to appreciate what an honor it was to be selected to be the first to get a chance to go into space.”


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