Nationwide trucking strike causing chaos on major SA routes

Five people were arrested in Hekpoort for public violence after a truck and bakkie were torched. Picture for illustrative purposes only

Ongoing tensions between SA and foreign-born drivers are threatening imports and exports in the country.

Motorists in Cape Town have been warned to consider taking alternative routes as several trucks were causing huge delays in and around the city on Monday morning.

According to Western Cape traffic chief Kenny Africa, the N2 at Mew Way was closed for traffic due to a truck blocking the highway in the direction of Cape Town.

“Motorists using the N2 from Somerset West to Cape Town are advised to make use of alternative routes,” Africa said. “The N2 has been closed between Mew Way and Spine [Road].”

Africa said the Du Toit Kloof Pass has also been closed due to a truck accident on Monday morning. In addition, Piekenierskloof Pass on the N7 has also been closed owing to protesting truck drivers blocking the road.

In Gauteng, alerts for a number of affected areas also went out on Monday morning.

In Silverton, there were reports of Albany truck drivers protesting, with roads closed and tyres burning in Watloo Road.

The M2 past Denver was reported to have the roads blocked by buses.

Social media was also abuzz on Sunday night with motorists travelling along the N12 reporting seeing a number of trucks parked on the side of the national route, reported the Lowvelder.

There were rumours of a planned strike in the industry on Monday and Tuesday, which the Road Freight and Logistics sector truck drivers associations distanced themselves from.

Further reports suggested that the N12 was affected between Johannesburg and Witbank and that Durban was also in unrest.

Two trucks were reportedly set alight in Montclair, south Durban, on Monday morning at 2am.

Trucks had also been set alight in Kokstad and Ashburton over the weekend.

“There is full deployment [of police] on the N3 from Cato Ridge down, and on the N2 in both directions,” Metro police spokesperson Parboo Sewpersad said.

Beverley Short, from the National Truck Drivers’ Foundation, said: “We do not know what is happening, because we have no involvement in the strike. We have seen footage of trucks being burnt and are unaware of who might be behind this.”

The Lowvelder was unsuccessful in obtaining comment from the All Truck Drivers Foundation’s secretary, Sifiso Nyati.

Video by Taryn Arnott

Mpumalanga SAPS spokespersonn Brigadier Leonard Hlathi said: “There were a number of reports regarding trucks on the N12 this evening, but they have been removed by the owners. We have been monitoring the situation and can confirm that there were trucks parked on the N12.

“They were not barricading the roads and will be moved from Malalane to Steelpoort and then on to Lydenburg.”

Meanwhile, the Pretoria East Rekord reports that motorists might be subjected to major disruptions, including significant traffic congestion.

Meyer, who is also MMC for community safety and emergency services in Tshwane, urged residents to take the necessary precautions when planning their trips in the coming week.

Meanwhile, the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) has distanced itself from the strike, saying it did not know who was calling for it.

“None of the legitimate unions within the national bargaining council for road freight and logistics industry have called for [the strike],” said Satawu spokesperson Zanele Sabela.

“We are concerned for the safety of truck drivers and urge trucking companies to be cautious because in the past strikes called by faceless people have often resulted in gruesome attacks on truck drivers with trucks they drive being set alight.”

Sabela said the union supported all efforts by police to stamp out attacks on the country’s trucking industry, which are tantamount to economic sabotage.

SA truck drivers have accused foreign national drivers of stealing their jobs, which has led to scores of them being attacked and their trucks torched on, particularly, the busy N3 and N2 roads.

The International Cross-Border Traders Association (ICTA) threatened to stop SA-registered trucks and buses from leaving South Africa if the industrial action went ahead.

The ministers of employment and labour, police, transport and home affairs convened an urgent meeting on Sunday evening to discuss the continued violence in the trucking industry and to plot a way forward.

In a joint statement, the ministries noted that incidents against drivers and their vehicles were turning more violent and criminal.

In June, at least 20 trucks per week were torched in the space of three weeks, News24 reported.

High-level meetings between truck owners, drivers and Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, and Police Minister Bheki Cele were held in Durban at the beginning of June.

Police have since arrested 91 people following the previous attacks.

News24 has reported on several violent incidents in the past few months, including bricks that were hurled through the window of an Eastern Cape driver’s truck; a delivery truck that was petrol-bombed in Somerset West; and a driver who died of his injuries after his truck was petrol-bombed near Touws River.

The ministers condemned the ongoing violence and agreed that it was nothing but economic sabotage threatening the economic viability of the SADC region.

“The meeting emphasised that the acts of sabotage are spearheaded by criminal elements that are responsible for the blockages, burning of trucks and assets, as well as the intimidation and killing of truck drivers in the sector,” the joint statement read.

The ministers agreed on several things, including increasing the visibility of law enforcement in violent hotspots.

Through the department of international relations and cooperation, regional counterparts would be engaged to address ongoing issues in the industry.

“There will be continuous joint inspections taking place in all provinces to ensure compliance in the sector,” the ministries said.

“The task team has agreed to develop a clear action plan and to provide regular updates on the progress made to the joint inter-ministerial task team.”

The meeting further noted that the events were turning more violent and criminal; and that the South African Police Service would continue to act against any acts of lawlessness.

“It is important to note that South Africa is not a xenophobic country and whoever is found on the wrong side of the law will be dealt with,” the statement read.

The DA said in a statement on Monday that Natjoints needed to get involved.

“The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes with grave concern the outbreaks of violent lawlessness targeting the economy across South Africa. The past 14 days have been characterised by looting, attacks on foreign nationals, the burning of trucks, and violent riots.

“In part, these incidents are due to a failing economy in which more than 10 million South Africans cannot find work or have given up looking for work. While the national government throws billions in bailouts at failing state-owned entities, the national fiscus grows weaker by the day.

“To maintain law and order, which is a key requirement for stability and therefore economic growth, we need a co-ordinated approach to actively monitor and rapidly respond and end any violence or disturbances which could cause destruction of property, a loss of life, or further harm South Africa’s economy.”

They said they would write to national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole to request that he activate the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints), in response.

“The violent truck protests across the country have seen at least 20 trucks per week torched in June, and several highway blockades as recently as today. Truck torching has involved several other violent incidents in the past few months, including bricks hurled through the windows a driver’s truck in the Eastern Cape, a delivery truck that was petrol bombed in Somerset West, and a driver who died of his injuries after his truck was petrol bombed near Touws River. An attack on trucks is an attack on the economy.

“The Natjoints is empowered to coordinate all security and law enforcement operations throughout the country and is therefore well placed to first anticipate and if necessary, to respond timeously to incidents of criminality and disorder when they occur.”

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