Truck drivers are not vandalising and torching of trucks but this is being done by criminals who have taken advantage of the grievances of the drivers.
Mandla Mngomezulu, secretary of the All Truck Drivers Foundation, told City Press that had government resolved the issue of trucking companies hiring foreign nationals, none of “this chaos would be happening”.
“Since our strike four months ago, we have seen no change. A lot of companies are still hiring foreign nationals over South Africans while some of the companies are retrenching. But they are only retrenching South African drivers which has angered a lot of local truck drivers, who subsequently made the decision to go back to the streets in protest,” Mngomezulu said.
On Monday, truck drivers again took to the streets of Durban to protest over the hiring of foreign nationals in the industry. Following the torching of about 30 trucks last week, more trucks were set alight on Monday night and Tuesday morning. But Mngomezulu said it was not their members.
“The trucks are being burnt by criminals who are taking advantage of this situation. That is something that has been taking place at night and we as truck drivers know nothing about who is behind that, because we would be asleep.”
SA Police Services spokesperson Colonel Brenda Muridili, said that multiple cases have been opened related to the murder, attempted murder and malicious damage to property. On Monday in Leondale, Alberton, a man was shot dead another was injured and a truck set alight.
“Police responded to a crime scene near the N3 on-ramp towards Heidelberg, and found a truck and trailer on fire. Next to the truck was a man who was bleeding from gunshot wounds and he was rushed to a nearby hospital for urgent medical attention,” Muridili told City Press.
“While combing the scene police found a second victim in the veld with gunshot and burn wounds to the upper body. This second victim, a 45-year-old male employee of a trucking company in Pinetown, was declared dead on the scene.”
Muridili added that “in a second incident, also on Monday evening, in Alberton, a truck driver reported that he was driving along Black Reef Road in Roodekop and as he turned into Galiled Road en route to the trucking company he noticed three men in balaclavas”.
“He jumped out of the truck and fled when the three men started firing shots at the truck. On his return he found the truck on fire. The complainant escaped uninjured,” she said.
“In Vosloorus, a 27-year-old truck driver travelling from Springs to a recycling company in Booysens, Johannesburg, was allegedly hijacked. The truck was set alight by unknown suspects near Extension 25 in Vosloorus. The driver managed to escape with no injuries. Police are investigating a case of hijacking,” she said.
Muridili said a multi-disciplinary team has been deployed to urgently address the spike in these attacks.
“To this end, five suspects were arrested for intimidation on Monday after a group of about 40 people arrived at a freight company in Alberton demanding jobs.
“It is reported that the group broke into a frenzy when one of the company seniors advanced to hand them application forms for employment. Their court appearance is yet to be confirmed.”
‘No word from government’
According to Mngomezulu, what has angered the drivers “the most is the fact that the Minister [of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi] seemingly is not interested in our plight as truck drivers in the country”.
“The last time we embarked on a strike in July, the minister said he would get back to us in two weeks with a document which would give directive in terms of how things should be done going forward,” Mngomezulu said. “But since July 7, he has not gotten back to us and truck drivers subsequently decided to go back to [the streets to] take a stand for themselves. He has made us out to be liars. Now we are back here. The minister has not done what he promised to do,” Mngomezulu said.
The July meeting, after the nationwide strike, was supposed to address the local truck drivers’ grievances of “preferential hiring” of non South Africans, but there has been no indication if this will be addressed either by government or freight companies, Mngomezulu said.
Mngomezulu told City Press then that leaders in the trucking industry had hoped the meeting would yield better results.
“We went to the meeting with the hopes that the minister would tell us a concrete solution to our grievances. Unfortunately, we had no such luck,” he said. “We want a way forward but all the minister said was that a task team would be formed and that he would engage us further.”
Mngomezulu, who has been a truck driver for more than 15 years, said it was disheartening that “South African citizens were sitting at home while they could be working” and this has “angered us”.
Joint ministerial team formed
According to a joint statement from the departments of employment and labour, home affairs, police and transport, the State Security Agency and the office of the premier in KwaZulu-Natal released on Thursday afternoon, the parties “engaged this week to adopt a comprehensive response to this criminal activity”.
This includes, among others, “continued monitoring and intelligence gathering by the security cluster on the origin and nature of these attacks, continuous engagement with all identified parties and communication on new developments and targeting certain areas, expanding resources to optimise their impact on the ground”.
“The attacks on, and the burning of trucks, has again peaked in recent days with 13 such incidents taking place in the last month. Between April and November this year, some 84 attacks have been recorded,” the statement read.
Nxesi said: “These attacks are criminal acts and government has zero tolerance towards this economic sabotage.
“The transport industry is a catalyst to economic growth and job creation and truck drivers are among the workers whose work takes them across borders.
“We are working very hard to establish harmonious relations with other Southern African Development Community countries to facilitate orderly movement of people, including truck drivers and goods across our borders.
“Attacks on trucks which deliver goods which are the lifeblood of South Africa’s and the region’s economy, must be condemned in the strongest terms possible.”
On Wednesday, DA shadow minister of transport Chris Hunsinger called on the police “to urgently investigate and make arrests in relation to the ongoing attacks on trucks across South Africa”.
Hunsinger urged those responsible for the attacks to realise that “the destruction of these trucks has a wide economic impact – far wider than the financial damage to the trucking company and the driver”.
“While the DA commends President Cyril Ramaphosa’s reaction to the attacks, the ship has sailed on his request for a report regarding this matter,” he said.
This was after Ramaphosa condemned “the recent arson attacks affecting the road freight industry”, on Wednesday.
“As South Africans, we cannot possibly tolerate the mindless and bloody lawlessness with which the road freight industry is being targeted,” said the president.
The president has since directed Nxesi, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Police Minister Bheki Cele to report back to him as a matter of urgency.