Trucking protests re-emerge ahead of the elections  

Economist Mike Schüssler warns that South Africa cannot afford to have its economic arteries blocked, while Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula says government is mindful of the impact and is trying to address the issue.
Cargo trucks carry shipping containers from the container terminal at the Port of Durban. Image: Kevin Sutherland/Bloomberg

Trucking protests have re-emerged ahead of the local government elections, with some SA drivers blocking part of the N3 national road in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday while a similar incident occurred at the weekend in the Eastern Cape.

The local drivers were yet again voicing their objections against the employment of foreign truck drivers in the freight industry.

According to the N3 Toll Concession (N3TC), truck drivers were obstructing the N3 toll route in both directions near Montrose, diverting all Johannesburg bound traffic at Bergville.

Read: Foreign truck drivers attacked under cover of looting, demand compensation from SA

A similar protest took place near the Eastern Cape town of Middelburg on Sunday, affecting traffic and trucks transporting manganese destined for international markets from Kuruman in the Northern Cape to the harbour at Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth).

Economist Mike Schüssler, who has voiced concerns before about the impact such truck driver protests on the economy, told Moneyweb on Wednesday that “South Africa cannot afford to further have its economic arteries blocked”.

Along with the country’s current plight around electricity outages, Schüssler said the trucking protests are “just adding costs and pain to the SA economy at a moment in time that we cannot afford it”.

He stressed that the protest actions are “further hammering” the freight industry, as multiple trucks were set alight during the July unrest.

Read: Eskom in dire straits: Maintenance lags as utility overspends on emergency diesel

Just last week Pick n Pay chairman Gareth Ackerman urged government to relocate the Mooi River toll plaza on the N3, which connects Durban to the economic hub of Johannesburg, bemoaning the impact of the July unrest on supply chains.

In their response to the re-emergence of truck protests, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi said during a media briefing on Wednesday that they are mindful of the economic impact of any disruption to the supply chains and freight logistics in the country.

They convened the briefing after the Road Freight Association called on the ministers of police and transport to mobilise their teams in order to ensure public roads remain open and free for use for all citizens, including the vehicles operated by freight and logistics companies.

“We have made a firm commitment to address these matters in a manner that ensures sustainability of our interventions. Some of these interventions may require a longer runway as these may require legislative amendments,” Mbalula said.

Read: Truck torchings: SA risks losing drivers and exports

“Our National Road Traffic Act requires foreign operators to make use of an operator permit/card. The rationale for such a provision is to enable government to manage situations where an operator does not follow the relevant laws in South Africa,” he said.

Mbalula pointed out that these permits will have a one-year validity period and that non-compliance with relevant laws will result in the deregistration of the operator in question.

“The amendments to the regulations are now before Parliament for comment as required by law, and we anticipate publishing amended regulations by the end of November 2021,” he added.

Meanwhile, Nxesi claimed during the briefing that the freight industry could be employing foreign nationals as most agree to work under exploitative conditions due to desperation.

He said this practice by employers promotes illegal immigration into the country as foreign nationals flee their countries to seek better opportunities in SA.

A member of the All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF), an entity representing local truck drivers, told local KwaZulu-Natal newspaper The Witness that they have had enough of freight companies employing foreign nationals.

“We are not backing down on our struggle. We have been patient for far too long. The ministers are playing with us. We can’t be hungry in our own country during the pandemic while these people are having it easy,” the ATDF member is quoted in the newspaper.

Schüssler, however, said that ATDF is merely “pushing their luck in a saying foreign truck drivers must leave”.

Read: Attacks on trucks are an attack on the economy

“Many are here legally, so it is unfair to expect those people who’ve been here a long time and were invited by government to not work here all of a sudden,” he said.

Schüssler noted that trucking by its very nature is a foreign and international industry and it’s going to employ a lot of foreign people in either SA, Zimbabwe, Botswana or Mozambique.

Palesa Mofokeng is a Moneyweb intern.

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The truckers should go down on their knees and thank whoever that they are employed.

yes, they have decent jobs, why protest? doesn’t make sense. Most probably instigated by one of the ANC factions or EFF.

Frikkie Mabulaglag and addressing issues are mutually exclusive !!!!

Truckers must be the people with the most patience on our roads. They have to tolerate waiting at border posts for days on end; they have to run the gauntlet of hostile ambushes by gangs of armed criminals where some are attacked and killed; they are stopped by every moronic person in uniform who wants to make a quick buck. How the heck a shipment gets from one part of our country to the other beats me. The same truck will be stopped repeatedly by “law enforcement officers” (sic!) Why? Why can there not be a permit issued that a truck only needs to show once and then be allowed to proceed to its destination without being stopped? We are lucky these guys are not more organised. If they were, our highways would be blocked until their issues are resolved.

I heard years ago that some get paid R250 for one day’s work.
Try paying your rent, food, clothes for R250/day.
Even worse try keeping a family functional with R250/day.

My drivers earn between R18 000-00 and R20 000-00 a month gross. Granted they work bloody hard for it but the Market is hugely diesel price sensitive so us Truck owners just cannot pay more right now! Just fyi diesel cost is about R7.00 per km travelled on average at the mo.They leave on a Sunday evening and get back home on a Friday if lucky, or Saturday if not, hence the wage discrepancy. They can either do 3 Dbn to Jhb return trips a week, but generally 2 with all the delays experienced these days. It’s a tough job, but for a relatively unskilled person it is decent money. They all own their own cars, and manage to put food on the table thankfully.

agree, but then they must aim their protest against the organization responsible for this chaotic red tape…..the ANC government! and not innocent road users?

The owner of the transport company pledged allegiance to his bank manager, not to wannabee truck drivers. These opportunistic criminals have no claim on jobs and the law should crush their acts of sabotage. They are holding the country at ransom. The ANC, and not foreigners, is to blame for their unemployment. By voting ANC they are voting themselves into poverty. Then again, the slave mentality always enslaves itself in some way or another.

There are two sides to this tale and the SA truck drivers do not tell their side well. That is that some foreign drivers are employed at pathetic wages, no conditions of employment and coerced to drive unroadworthy and overloaded trucks for longer hours than is safe and on dangerous routes. The KZN Fields Hill “accident” where a foreign driver operated (unroadworthy) truck with brake failure killed 20 odd people is a sobering example. If the driver doesn’t like those conditions he can be summarily dismissed and there is another to take his place.

Thank you. We do have laws in this country though. Labour laws, immigration laws as well as vehicle registration and roadworthy laws. What we do not have, are laws that allow selective sabotage and coercive behaviour.

What will happen to you and me if we burned down the office of the receiver of revenue, or Luthuli House even, because they discriminate against us?

In being “mindful” the first requirement would be to have some grey matter between the ears!!! TSK!!!

Where do they get these people??

The solution is simple, send in a police task team as one would with any hostage situation and have the truck drivers blocking the roads arrested.

Frikkie Mabulalag can do sweet blow stuff all about this situation because he is totally incompetent !!

Fikile is ‘mindful of the economic impact’… wow, feel so much better now!

End of comments.

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