While acting deputy chairperson of the All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF) Mandla Mngomezulu has promised that another shutdown by truck drivers would be on the cards should government not address their grievances, he has lamented how foreign nationals are treated like slaves.
Speaking to City Press on Tuesday, Mngomezulu did not mince his words when saying:
On Sunday, the road and freight interministerial committee (IMC) consisting of Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, Home Affairs Aaron Minister Motsoaledi and Police Minister Bheki Cele held engagements with employers and employees of the freight and logistics industry to resolve pay disagreements and the recruitment of foreign truck drivers.
A week ago, disgruntled truck drivers blockaded the N3 highway at Van Reenen’s Pass through the Drakensberg mountains, and Tweedie in the Howick area, KwaZulu-Natal, to protest government’s failure to resolve the problems facing the sector.
One of their main concerns was the employment of foreign nationals.
The blockade caused disruptions that affected the movement of goods along the N17, N3, N11, N2, R59 and R74.
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Mngomezulu said: “We have been fighting for so long with the government regarding the issue of foreign nationals. There is a document we have agreed on, an implementation plan, and I think that it is going to give us a guideline in terms of what is going to happen going forward.”
On Monday, various stakeholders met once again and subsequently agreed on an 11-point action plan to deal with industry challenges.
The IMC met with industry players including the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union, the industry bargaining council, the ATDF and the Transport Association of South Africa.
Spokesperson for the department of transport, Lwaphesheya Khoza, explained that Sunday’s meeting was to resolve issues faced by the trucking industry which have been present for quite some time. The meeting also addressed the blockades by truck drivers in various parts of the country, including the N3.
She told City Press:
The action plan involves facilitating the appointment of a task team, enforcing visa requirements, consideration of all foreign driving licences, registration and compliance with labour laws, and registration of operators in terms of section 45 of the National Road Traffic Act, as well as the amendment of the National Road Traffic Regulations.
“It seems that [government] agrees with us that it is illegal for foreign nationals to drive South African trucks,” Mngomezulu said.
“For now, we will wait and see. But if they do nothing, after they promised us that definite action will be taken, we will head back to the streets” Mngomezulu said, adding that three months was more than enough time for trucking companies to “do the right thing”.
“If government continues to allow people ... to break the law, we too will break the law by going back to the streets to protest.”
For Mngomezulu, the hiring of foreign nationals by trucking companies is not just a blow to South African truck drivers, but an exploitation of the same foreign nationals.
He told City Press: “Companies that are hiring foreign nationals and paying them peanuts must know that it is illegal.”
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He said that companies were using people who are suffering because they will accept anything that is being offered to them.
“You cannot break the law and then say foreign nationals are more hard-working.”
‘NO CHOICE BUT TO CONTINUE WORK’
Given Ncube*, a Durban-based truck driver from Zimbabwe, says he lives in constant fear, but has no choice but to continue working.
Ncube told City Press:
“It’s true that some trucking companies are hiring foreign nationals and offering salaries that are less than what truck drivers should legally be paid. Some people do not have the required documentation and that is illegal too.”
Ncube explained that, for him, “this is better than just sitting at home and doing nothing”.
“It is better to have something than nothing, and as long as companies will hire me, I will take the job if no one else will.”
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Khoza added: “Our focus is to ensure that the negotiations take place and the work is done, with regards to addressing the plight and issues of those in the trucking industry, so that it does not get to a point where national roads are blocked because this leads to the blockage of economic activity.”
*Not his real name