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Government engages logistics industry to halt truck blockades

Minister Fikile Mbalula was yesterday evening locked in a meeting with logistics stakeholders to quell the fires lit over the past week by truck drivers who blocked South Africa’s main arteries Picture, Facebook.

Minister Fikile Mbalula was yesterday evening locked in a meeting with logistics stakeholders to quell the fires lit over the past week by truck drivers who blocked South Africa’s main arteries Picture, Facebook.

Published Jun 20, 2022

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Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula was yesterday evening locked in a meeting with logistics stakeholders to quell the fires lit over the past week by truck drivers who blocked South Africa’s main arteries to protest the hiring of foreign truck drivers, which was enforced with a heavy hand by the SAPS.

The Road Freight Association (RFA) was among the organisations that confirmed being in a closed meeting with the minister for the scheduled gathering that started in late afternoon well into the evening.

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Solutions were sought after the private sector threw down the strongest challenge yet of the government’s resolve to keep the economy running, as the N3 to Durban ports and beyond was under siege from truck drivers who last week blocked it in critical areas to press demands to halt the employment of foreign nationals, and the recent fuel price increases.

The RFA and Business Unity South Africa (Busa) have called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to deploy the army and the police to end the blockades.

Major logistics associations including the United Truck Drivers Association (UTDA), the RFA, the All Truck Drivers Forum and Allied South Africa (ATDF ASA), the Foreign Truck Drivers Association (FTDA) late on Friday indicated they had not been invited to the meeting scheduled for yesterday, which was aimed at resolving these issues.

“The thing is they relax if there is no pressure or activity going on. It is pitiful that the government only responds when there is a crisis created, other than addressing the issues they are all aware of. It has been more than five years that we have been talking about the same thing,” ATDF ASA’s said on Friday.

Other trucking associations on Friday said although they had not been part of the protests which saw the N3 come to a standstill, they supported the issues raised by the truckers.

Four people were arrested last week which saw more than 300 trucks blocking the N3 at strategic points, creating a bottleneck for supply chains utilising Durban and Richards Bay harbours.

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Indications yesterday were that Mbalula, along with Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi and the Department of Home Affairs would engage with the truck drivers and other stakeholders.

“We consider this continued disruption of economic activity a crisis and ask the president to intervene to ensure that the appropriate resources are mobilised to pre-empt these disruptions and clear up the current blockage urgently,” Busa said while the RFA asked Ramaphosa to “instruct the ministers of police, transport, and defence and military veterans to perform their duties to restore order and to listen to the proposals made by the representative, compliant transporters within the sector”.

“This propaganda witnessed by the trucking industry must be stopped, and treated as sabotage, the staged crime that it is. It intends to cause disorder that the country does not require. What the truck drivers are doing is an affront to the entire South African community and should not be taken lightly,” Minister Nxesi said on Friday.

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According to Nxesi, Ramaphosa has mandated an inter-ministerial committee to address the concerns raised by truck drivers and small truck operators.

“We have made a firm commitment to address these issues in a way that ensures the long-term viability of our interventions. We have since mentioned that some of these interventions may necessitate a longer runway due to legislative changes,” he said.

Nxesi said a significant milestone in South Africa’s history was early in February when the government formulated a comprehensive National Labour Migration Policy. The department said extensive research and an international benchmarking process were used to inform this process, which sought policy based on best practices.

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Busa chief executive Cas Coovadia last week said the blockades were a  recurring occurrence and that his organisation had consistently appealed to the government to take proactive measures to stop and arrest those responsible.

BUSINESS REPORT

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