Attacks on Trucks, xenophobic or criminality?

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Wednesday, 11th September 2019



October is Transport month and it would not be possible to it pass it by without making mention of the impacts over the last year and more specifically the first two weeks of September on the transport industry that has seen violent attacks on truck drivers and waste less torching of trucks both foreign and locally registered. It is believed that 213 drivers mostly Foreign Nationals have lost their lives and around 1,400 trucks have been burnt, damaged and or destroyed including their cargoes at an estimated cost of R1.2bn or R3.3m per day over the last year.

The from 1-4 September alone saw 17 trucks in one weekend being torched, which was the start of the planned strike by ATDF (All Truck Drivers Forum).  ATDF had distanced itself from the strike after a last-minute emergency meeting held in Durban on Saturday 31 August between ATDF, NTDA, PFS, Harbour Carriers, SAPS and the NPA was intended to avert the strike and any violence taking place. However, while it is claimed by authorities that these were sporadic attacks on drivers and trucks by a few disgruntled criminal elements trying to force their agenda and bring the transport industry to a standstill, the devastation that followed does not support this theory.

The attacks on trucks and drivers were widespread across the country. Attacks to place along the N3: Pietermaritzburg; Mooi River; Escort and near the Tugela Plaza before Van Reenen’s Pass. Along the N2: Port Shepstone; Paddock and Kokstad, at the Olifantskop pass on the N10 a lone truck was torched blocking access to traffic in both directions. On the N12 Witbank (Total Petropoort); Kuruman in the Northern Cape and Piet Retief in KZN trucks were pulled off, parked and their keys taken by heavily armed gangs. At Richards Bay in Northern KZN 11 ATDF truck drivers were arrested for parking their trucks blocking the entrance to the harbour. Bethal and Bloemfontein in the Free State and the N1 between Pretoria and Polokwane were also hotspots.

These efforts were coordinated with widespread xenophobic attacks in Joburg and Pretoria CBD’s while initially directed on foreign national shop owners, became a free for all of criminal looting and pilfering and cost 10 lives of which only two were foreign nationals. Damage caused by the burning and looting of shops and business’s in the two CBD’s is expected to run into billions of Rands.

There is no doubt in my mind that the attacks on both trucks and foreign nationals’ businesses were inter-linked, well planned and orchestrated simultaneously, although a lot of opportunists climbed on the bandwagon along the way in both cases.

There was a swift reaction and condemnation of the xenophobic attacks in South Africa by Nigeria and Zambia which resulted in retaliatory attacks on South African owned businesses such as Shoprite, Pick ‘n Pay and MTN as well as the South African High Commissions in both countries.

What is the way forward from here and how do we find a compromise that will satisfy all parties involved? From a trucking perspective going forward I think South African Truck Drivers are not going to want to work cross-borders into neighbouring countries for fear of retaliation, also South African truck drivers have never been comfortable driving cross-border due to harsh conditions they are subjected to and the long periods of time spent away from home and families. This brings us back to What FESARTA has being advocating all along that Cross-border operators should be allowed to employ foreign nationals provided they have legal work permits and the correct qualifications as the amount of time they will actually spend in South Africa per month is limited to a few days per month. Then the South African drivers can have the local trucking jobs as the ratio of cross-border driving jobs to local driving jobs is around 2% of the truck driving jobs available in the country.

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