Alert for truck violence

2019-07-19 14:15
Foto ter illustrasie....FOTO: ANDRE DAMONS

Foto ter illustrasie....FOTO: ANDRE DAMONS (File)

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As the group accused of being behind recent attacks on truckers took a defiant stance in court, truck owners were warned of more possible violence and disruption on the roads today.

The All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF), in papers filed in response to a temporary interdict, said essentially: “Prove we did it”.

The ATDF opposes the employment of foreign truck drivers on SA roads, and its members are suspected of carrying out a spate of attacks — some fatal — on truckers in recent months.

The group’s PRO, Wonderboy Mnembe, said only if the allegations are proved, can the interdict be made final.

His statements were made in response to an application brought by an employers’ association, Positive Freight Solutions Forum, to stop the surge of incidents affecting the trucking industry. A temporary order was previously granted and the matter returned to the Pietermaritzburg high court yesterday. The temporary interdict was extended pending more papers being filed. The forum is an association that has about 184 members who operate in the road freight and logistics industry.

Church Street outside the high court building was teeming with police officers in case violence erupted between members of the two groups. However, everyone was well behaved.

Meanwhile, police sources confirmed yesterday that they were on high alert and patrolling the N3 for signs of any trouble involving trucks. They will continue to remain on alert as long as there is a possible threat.

A message circulating on social media said ATDF members would be blocking highways with a “keys down” protest — parking their vehicles on freeways for hours to slow traffic to a standstill.

Attempts to get comment from the ATDF yesterday were unsuccessful, as leaders’ phones rang unanswered.

Mnembe said in court papers before the high court yesterday that ATDF was established because of the “high immigration” of foreign nationals, from neighbouring countries, who are “favoured by SA employers”, especially in the trucking industry.

He said that for a final interdict to be granted against them, the Positive Freight Solutions Forum must prove that ATDF is involved in “perpetrating unlawful and violent attacks” on trucks, drivers and their depots, on national highways, public roads and national key points.

He said foreign nationals generally do not have the necessary permits and valid driving licences to work legally in the industry. They “buy” their driving licences, he claimed.

Mnembe said that members of the forum disregard the law and hire the foreigners anyway.

They are not paid mandatory contributions, given meal and night allowances, or registered with the Unemployment Insurance Fund, he said. He said the ATDF does not encourage violence.

The application was brought urgently in June by the forum, which feared the worst in the wake of threatening posters displayed in public areas.

Deputy chairperson of the forum Narendra Dharumdaw said in court papers that the posters read: “We are not going to let you take our job[s]. We have been begging you for a long time.

“We’re no longer going to deal with only employers now, we’re going to deal with you also and if you think we are just kidding, playing or bluffing, try us. Enough is enough.”

Dharumdaw said he feared a severe escalation of violence.

He revealed that since April there had been more than 75 incidents where trucks were burned and their drivers threatened and seriously assaulted.

The forum accused ATDF of orchestrating the violent incidents which culminated in “tragic loss, injury, destruction and uncontrollable rioting”.

He added that various insurance companies have declined to extend insurance cover for claims emanating from the unlawful conduct.

Dharumdaw said that while some of his association’s members employ foreigners, they make sure all the legal requirements are met.

• Claudia Schoeman, managing director of Hawkeye Trucker Assist, issued a public warning yesterday of possible protest action against trucking companies.

According to Hawkeye Trucker Assist’s website they are a group established to “assist truckers against crime. To assist truckers in need on the road to be protected. Truckers that have breakdowns and do not know where to get help”.

Schoeman posted a social media “heads up” that truckers (linked to the ATDF) “will be having a keys down protest throughout the country”.

Schoeman told The Witness that the message was intended as a warning to the trucking industry both yesterday and today (Friday).

“There are already many problems going on as we speak with regards to violence. So in short I would just like to warn everyone to please avoid the N3. Highways and roads all over will be blocked off as the trucks will simply be switched off and they will stand there for hours. Their goal is to bring the country to a standstill.” Schoeman said the information in the message was based on their own intelligence sources.

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