Owners call for govt to act after seven more trucks are set ablaze

2019-03-29 16:00
Seven trucks were set alight on the N3 between Mooi River and Estcourt in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Seven trucks were set alight on the N3 between Mooi River and Estcourt in the early hours of Wednesday morning. (Joey’s Towing)

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Truck owners have called on the government to act after another seven trucks were set alight on the N3 between Mooi River and Estcourt in the early hours of Thursday. 

Police spokesperson, Lieutenant- Colonel Thulani Zwane, said at around 3 am a group of men armed with sticks, sjamboks and iron rods blockaded the N3 north bound and forced five drivers out of their trucks.

“They set the trucks alight and proceeded to the south bound lane where they burnt two trucks before fleeing the scene.

“A total of seven trucks were burned extensively [but] the drivers sustained no injuries. Charges of malicious damage to property were opened at Mooi River police station for investigation,” said Zwane.

Road Traffic Inspectorate spokesperson Zinhle Mngomezulu said the N3 in both directions was cleared by 10 am on Thursday.

It is believed that the strike is related to discontent over the hiring of foreign nationals as truck drivers.

Ashan Nunkoo, from Scorpio Transport, was one of the seven truck owners woken by news that their truck had been torched. Nunkoo said his truck, which was heading to Durban, was set alight around 1.30 am on the N3 about 10 km away from the Mooi River toll plaza.

“The damage to the truck at the moment is standing at about R1 million. The cargo was not that damaged, but we still have to assess the cargo which was closer to the cab of the truck to see if the heat had any effect on it. Fortunately, the truck driver and his assistant managed to escape unharmed.”

Nunkoo said the torching of trucks did not seem to him to be motivated by protests as the perpetrators had reportedly tried to loot the truck.

“I think they are trying to work under the umbrella of the protest, but they are just criminals trying to steal from the trucks instead of hijacking them,” said Nunkoo.

He urged government to act urgently as there were already talks among truck owners to hold their own strike.

“The common feeling among truck owners is to hold back on moving trucks for a week or until government does something about this,” he said.

Nunkoo said the incident has put a strain on the company as they are now one truck down and there is now a driver sitting at home not working.

Another truck owner, who asked not to be named, said his truck driver had to abandon the truck and hide in the bushes for his safety. “He was really petrified by the experience as I’m sure any human being would be.”

The truck owner said only the cab of his truck was torched and the containers carrying the cargo remained untouched by the fire.

“This situation has been so stressful to the transport fraternity as it is affecting our livelihood. There seem to be no warnings at all as this took us by great surprise and we are caught in the crossfire.”

In April last year, 35 trucks were damaged along the N3 in Mooi River.

Last Friday The Witness reported on four trucks that were petrol-bombed at two different places on the N3 in the early hours of March 21, and a truck driver badly beaten.

And on Sunday the N3 was blocked at Cliffdale by a group who reportedly asked truck drivers for their licences.

This and the other incidents have been condemned by Transport Minister Dr Blade Nzimande. On Monday he said the government had met in January with the leadership of the trucking industry to discuss challenges facing South African truck drivers.

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, Mxolisi Kaunda, yesterday condemned the latest incident and called for swift action against those blockading roads and torching trucks.

He called for swift police action.

“We can’t have a situation where people will just wake up in the morning and blockade a national road. This sends a wrong message about our country, particularly the province, both locally and abroad,” said Kaunda.

He urged local truck drivers to respect the engagement process and the interventions that government has put in place to address their plight.

He also called on community members to share information they have with the police.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  truck strike
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