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

As neighbouring countries look to reduce supply chain reliance on SA.
A burnt-out truck pictured near Mooi River on July 10 following protests linked to former president Jacob Zuma's imprisonment. Image: Siyabonga Sishi/Reuters

Buried in the mayhem of the last week is a story that has brought even more shame on SA: the ongoing attacks on foreign truck drivers.

Groups representing foreign drivers, such as the Zimbabwe Truckers Association and the SADC (Southern African Development Community) Truck Drivers Association, report that several of their members were attacked last week under the cover of the general looting that took place in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Read: Vital links taken out of the supply chain by unrest and looting

“There is a danger that this situation spirals out of control, and South African drivers operating in neighbouring countries get targeted for tit-for-tat violence,” says Advocate Simba Chitando, who is representing several foreign truck drivers associations in seeking police or army protection against attackers operating on SA roads.

A complaint has been lodged with the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague in the Netherlands, which says it is monitoring the situation of foreign drivers in SA, though so far has declined to open an investigation.

That was before the events of last week.

More than 200 foreign truck drivers have been murdered in SA in recent years. Foreign truckers point the finger at groups such as the All Truck Drivers’ Foundation (ATDF), which has called for a ban on foreign drivers but has publicly condemned violence against foreign truck drivers.

However, there are court judgments against the group for allegedly detaining trucks while the police looked the other way.

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In 2020, the Zimbabwe Truckers Association brought an urgent case against President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ministers of transport, police and defence, calling for armed escorts for foreign truck drivers operating in SA.

This followed the murder of 25 year-old Zimbabwean truck driver Gift Msimanga, who was beaten to death in Alberton, south of Joburg, last year, allegedly by two Pakistani truck owners apparently operating under pressure from a trucking ‘mafia’.

Delays have cost lives

The government is aware of the situation with foreign drivers, but has sought to delay finding any resolution.

The consequences of that prevarication were in full display last week, says Chitando.

“The government cannot say that it was not warned what would happen. We have provided ample evidence of facts on the ground, and who is behind the attacks.

“It [government] chose not to act when it had the chance. The situation is fast spiralling out of control and has the danger to impact not just foreign drivers, but SA’s relations with Zimbabwe, arguably its closest ally in the region,” he adds.

Director of the Zimbabwe Truckers Association, Wellington Manyonda, said in an affidavit before the Gauteng High Court that there appeared to be little understanding in the presidency of the urgency of the situation.

“South Africa is currently facing rampant acts of xenophobic violence targeting Zimbabwean truck drivers on all the major roads in the country. The crisis has resulted in physical and mental trauma to our members, as well as the loss of life, often in the most heinous and gruesome acts of violence normally associated with acts of war.”

There has been a breakdown in law and order on the roads, and the police are unable to bring it under control, he argued. Part of the blame lies with senior politicians who appear to incite attacks against foreigners.

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The case was opposed by the state on technical grounds, and the acting director-general in the presidency argued that the matter was not urgent and that more time was needed to assess the situation.

Chitando says the folly of that delay is now evident for everyone to see.

“Foreign truck drivers are facing extreme danger each day they do their jobs, and the SA Constitution is supposed to provide them protection. It is well known who are the individuals behind groups [agitating for violence against foreign truckers], and if not, that is a huge failing of South African Intelligence. These people need to be arrested without delay.”

Compensation negotiations

Moneyweb understands that behind-the-scenes negotiations are underway to provide compensation for the families of murdered truck drivers, though it is still unknown whether armed escorts will be provided for foreign-driven trucks.

Glen Robbins, head of research at the Toyota Wessels Institute for Manufacturing Studies in Durban, says some foreign companies have started shifting to alternate route such as Beira and Maputo in Mozambique because of the shutdown of the N3 route to Durban last week (though the route has since reopened).

There are also reports of some companies providing armed escorts for their own trucks travelling on certain routes, such as the N3.

“Ironically, the growth in inter-African trade has increased demand for truck drivers, and South Africans have been the greatest beneficiary of this trend. So the idea that foreigners are taking away jobs from South Africans is not true,” says Robbins.

“I think the issue is that with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the flow of goods across borders will only intensify. It might be true that a fair amount of the net growth in road freight has been because many of our neighbouring countries and those in the SADC region grew at rates many times faster, from a low base, than South Africa did for the last decade.

Read: SA industrial hub has found a faster route to the sea

“That means that more regional as opposed to South African freight companies have started to feature in this market and that key South African businesses have depended on growth outside South Africa to drive their freight business.

“Solutions have to be found and our economies will become more and not less integrated and seamless movement across borders will have to be part of this deal.”

The National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry, as reported in The Mercury last year, says about 85% of the more than 51 000 truck drivers in SA are local citizens. About 15% are foreign. This contradicts claims by the ATDF that about 80% of truck drivers in SA are foreign.

Neighbours look outside SA for supplies

The events of last week may have been a tipping point for many foreign truck owners and drivers. Zimbabwe is bracing itself for shortages as a result of supply disruptions after travel on the N3 highway came to a standstill for several days, and several warehouses and supply warehouses were looted and burned to the ground.

Companies in Zimbabwe are being advised to source materials outside SA, according to the Zimbabwe Mail.

South African Petroleum Refineries (Sapref) declared force majeure last week as a result of the looting and shut down its refinery, which accounts for 35% of SA’s fuel refining capacity.

Read:

The Botswana Ministry of Mineral Resources says it has enough fuel to meet expected demand, but local oil companies were sourcing supplies outside SA to “minimise any possibility of fuel shortage”.

Former opposition parliamentarian in Zimbabwe and economist Eddie Cross told Moneyweb that he expects the events of last week to have a temporary impact on Zimbabwe. “It will affect supplies to domestic markets but no long-term damage.”

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SANRAL should be providing quick response security backed by air support particularly on the N3 . Also close the Mooi River toll . Trucks are vulnerable here when they stop . Every year this happens ie Trucks get looted and burnt . Rather just add this fee to the Tigela toll . As a rule if you going to go through Mooi River you will go through Tugela toll at some point . The toll could also be moved further towards JHB well away from a built up area . SANRAL PLEASE TURN YOUR BRAIN ON !

What brain???

The brain to tax law-abiding citizens of Gauteng with e-tolls.

Exactly Andrew, they cannot recognize problems and definitely cannot come up with the simplest solutions!! There actually should be an Army base at Mooi River, but then again we know that will turn into a brothel and shebeen!

It would be interesting for the thugs that burn the trucks to exposed on TV before going to jail for 20 years.

A truck costs more than R1 Million.

If I break the law I either pay for the damage or go to jail,
now why is the same rule not applied here?

Also, what anger does the looter have in order to kill a driver and burn a truck?

That is the same person that would pull the trigger or burn you.

Surely such a person belongs in jail?

Very fine calling card of South Africa : Home of the looting and burning savage.

The Home of the looting and burning……….with impunity.

200 foreign truckers killed in recent years in SA !!!!! And this pathetic government and police force did NOTHING to stop it ?????

Eish. SAP and Cele too busy with serious crimes like arresting white joggers on the Cape beaches and arresting whites for alleged racist remarks.

The world has moved on from the days of killing to education, high tech, space travel and culture.

What went wrong with South Africa?

We need tougher laws, larger Police force, more judges and more prisons.

For looting 20 years, for killing life imprisonment.

@BeesWax: The solution is definitely not to give even more draconian powers and even more (useless) manpower to the corrupt and ineffective Executive Arm of government. There are more than enough laws and policemen. All that is required is for the laws that exist to be enforced by the policemen that are already getting paid every month.

Tribal Africa … nothing changes.

Entrepreneurs act on incentives. Where capitalism incentivizes mutually beneficial entrepreneurial activity, collectivism directs entrepreneurship in the direction of destruction and extortion. When the law protects people’s right to the fruit of their labour, they will add value to society because some of that value will accrue to them. When the law allows infringements on property rights, that law incentivizes plunder for the benefit of the plunderer, and to the detriment of society as a whole.

Lawlessness and plunder are the unintended consequences of collectivist policies, but the carnage is axcatly what ANC supporters vote for. They blame nameless factions and third forces, counter-revolutionaries even, but they never accept responsibility for their own contributions to the situation. In a capitalist society, the president and the ruling party will be held accountable and punished at the ballot box. In a socialist society, they blame counter-revolutionaries while they keep on voting in support of the same destructive behaviour patterns.

The extortion and looting in the form of the construction mafia, zamma-zammas, taxi mafia, mining mafia, N3 highway mafia, municipal councillor mafia, cadre-deployment mafia and BEE mafia are merely manifestations of the ANC ethos. This is the Freedom Charter in action. This is what it looks like when the “land belongs to those who work it”.

Only the most ignorant and naive onlookers will expect the ANC to change things for the better. It can get much worse still because, at the moment, the banking system is still standing.

A “state” bank or two will put an end to the banking system as well !!!

Anyone who thinks anything will change or improve politically from the aftermath of this tragedy is childishly naive and myopic.

Sure the ANC will arrest some 12 instigators and parade them for the public spectacle. But the dust will settle and the people will calm down back into their meager existence.

And then ANC will continue with its ruinous economic policies and unfettered corruption and looting. The ANC is bigger than any principled person or calamitous event.

Until the poor and uneducated masses realise they are the architects of their own suffering, the ANC will remain vehemently resolute.

If the foreign trucks / drivers has to take goods over the border, put the truck with its container on a train trip from harbour to the border and from there on to the foreign country’s road – pitty for our own country’s transporters, they won’t be welcome anymore in the foreign countries -the direct result if one does not want to allow healthy competition in business – this looks very similar to the taxi industry where even murder is common to keep a route

So 200 foreign truck drivers killed and far more massive trucks burnt.And NOTHING is done.
But the SAHRC will start investigating the death of 20 looters in Phoenix near Durban.
Typical SA, authorities protecting criminals, as they are of their own background. SA remains a backward tribal society.
No justice or fairness.

South Africa: The shame and embarrassment are real but all I see around me is arrogance and entitlement. Start the rebuild process by immediately ending all race-based laws as it is sending a false message of inferiority to the beneficiaries that they cannot compete on equal terms.

“some foreign companies have started shifting to alternate route such as Beira and Maputo in Mozambique”

There it is right there. The alternate may just happen. Mozambique may just start sprucing up its ports to accommodate more ships and cargo.

Declare attacks on the vehicles as an act of terrorism, get the defence force to patrol the roads 24/7 and ban all pedestrians from loitering on the bridges and keep them off the roads.

Sorry, momentarily lost my marbles there. Scrap the thought!!

Compensation, armed escorts? Why stop there?

Free motels, meal stops, prostitutes and discounted toll fares! Viva!

From other side : large numbers of foreign truck drivers are NOT cross-border drivers, but are illegals.

“often in the most heinous and gruesome acts of violence normally associated with acts of war.”

Is this who we really are or want to be? Do we only wear a thin veneer of being civilized that comes off at the slightest opportunity or provocation? It is no just the foreign truck drivers but many more farmers have needlessly died in this way too! Why does society tolerate people who clearly do not belong at liberty in it?

The answer I am sad to say is that the cabal clearly feels it has bigger fish to fry! Let’s vote for them again comrades!

End of comments.

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