Truck wars toll:

2019-06-05 06:01

LIVES have been lost and billions of rands have gone up in smoke as a result of the fiery highway attacks on trucks across the country.

Twelve trucks were torched on KZN roads at the weekend in the latest spate of attacks. There were also attacks in Gauteng and in the Eastern and Western Cape.

Road Freight Association spokesperson Gavin Kelly told Gazette’s sister paper The Witness on Monday that they had received reports that about 213 people have been killed in attacks since March 2018.

“There is a lot of panic,” Kelly said. “There’s certainly fear that if the attacks continue more lives could be lost. We want an urgent intervention. We want people’s lives and their property to be secured. If you have insurance, it’s easy to replace a truck, but you can’t replace somebody’s life. This cannot be allowed to continue, it’s just unacceptable.”

He said that although the attacks were pinned on the “foreign driver issue”, there was also an element of criminality. “It’s unfair to target drivers who are innocent. To kill a driver because you are unhappy with the employment policy is unfair. Most of these people are employed through the legal process. If you’re unhappy about something like this, you need to take it to the right structures, you don’t start burning trucks and killing people.”

Kelly said other foreign employees were also being attacked.

Police Minister Bheki Cele was joined at a briefing on the issue in Durban on Monday by three other ministers, and vowed that proper action will be taken against the perpetrators, News24 reported.

Representing truck owners, advocate Pria Hassan said that over 60 trucks had been torched in three weeks: “We are looking at around 10 trucks being burnt per day.”

Cele said 91 people had been arrested over the last three weeks, but few had been prosecuted. Many were charged with traffic offences.

“Several have been released on bail of R500. We are working as a chain of the justice cluster.

“These crimes cannot just be traffic offences. It is economic sabotage and should be treated as such,” Cele said, adding that, following a high-level meeting, all parties would refer to the justice cluster and new head of prosecution to enforce greater punishments.

Cele — joined by ministers Fikile Mbalula (Transport), Thulas Nxesi (Employment and Labour) and Dr Aaron Motsoaledi (Home Affairs) — said: “You are seeing all of us here today working together. We are no longer working in silos,” adding that they would be a meeting at least every fortnight to ensure resolutions taken were followed through.

Kelly criticised police intelligence for failing to prevent the latest incidents and to arrest the culprits.

“It seems after numerous requests the SAPS are not willing to get involved or are too scared to get involved. There is footage of them standing and watching guys perpetrating violence. Why is the rule of law not being applied? It’s unacceptable,” he said.

While there were suggestions from the N3 Toll Concession (N3TC) that truck drivers avoid travelling at night, Kelly said that was not feasible: “That’s a short-term solution. If most of the activities happen at night, what stops them from switching to the day? What needs to happen is that the police need to do their job.”

Westmead Carriers owner Vishal Haripersad, who had one of his truck torched last month, reiterated Kelly’s sentiments: “You can’t run during the day. It’s just not feasible, sometimes the trucks go to the port, load out and they come out late and that’s the only time they have to travel. If you can only travel during the day, that means you lose about two days in a week,” he said.

South African National Roads Agency operations and maintenance manager Dudley Mbambo said while the attacks appear to be sporadic, Sanral cameras on the N3 and N2 had picked up some of the incidents at the weekend. “All information and camera footage have been sent to the relevant enforcement agencies,” Mbambo said.

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