Durban - Police minister, Bheki Cele along with high-level cabinet ministers, including Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalulua, Minister of Labour, Thulas Nxesi and Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi were expected to meet stakeholders in the trucking industry today after truck owners blockaded the N3 Freeway near Marianhill on Sunday night.
More than 10 trucks blocked the N3 freeway at the toll plaza closing off both the west and east bound lanes
Zinhle Mngomezulu, KZN Road Traffic Inspectorate spokesperson said the blockade lasted for about two hours but road users had already opted to use alternative routes
At the weekend, between a dozen and 20 trucks were torched in KwaZulu-Natal, as the trucking crisis in the province continues to intensify, with experts warning that the trend was placing the country’s economy in jeopardy.
The incidents were concentrated on the N3 and at towns and cities along the national highway often referred to as the lifeblood of the country’s economy.
According to police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala, 12 trucks were burnt and a driver was shot and injured at Cliffdale. A case of attempted murder was opened.
Gwala said five trucks were burnt at Ntshanga, two in Pietermaritzburg and others in Dalton, Mooi River, Bayhead and Colenso.
“We are gathering information on all the attacks. A task team has been formed to investigate these cases,” she said.
Road Traffic Inspectorate spokesperson Zinhle Mngomezulu said the N3 to Pietermaritzburg was closed for six hours after two trucks were petrol-bombed yesterday.
There had been no arrests yet.
Gavin Kelly, chief operating officer of the Road Freight Association, a coalition of truck owners, said he had heard from his members that more than 20 trucks were torched.
“We are disgusted by these actions. It’s in bad faith, especially considering all the discussions that have taken place over the past months,” he said.
Kelly called on police and the transport department to prioritise the crisis, which threatened to hit the country’s economy.
A Durban truck company owner pleaded for the government to step in and stop the attacks, and to guarantee the safety of drivers and goods.
“It’s getting out of hand. No trucks are being sent out from Durban to Joburg owing to the dangerous conditions.”
He said he would lose money and his clients would not receive goods on time.
Last week, the Daily News reported on posters plastered across the Pinetown taxi rank, threatening foreign truck drivers if they did not quit their jobs by yesterday.
Keshni Govender, Positive Freight Solution Forum’s legal representative, said 17 trucks were burnt between Saturday night and early yesterday.
Govender blamed the All Truck Drivers’ Foundation (ATDF), which has been lobbying against the hiring of foreign truck drivers.
He said the ATDF was focused on foreign truck drivers, but the trucks burnt were driven by South African drivers.
The ATDF could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Mngomezulu said it had not been easy trying to contain the attacks because they happened randomly and in the early hours.
“However, we are working with the SAPS and the N3 Toll Concession.”
The N3 Toll Concession warned motorists to take precautionary measures.
Commercial manager Con Roux advised motorists to avoid travelling at night.
He said at least 15 trucks were torched between Durban and Pietermaritzburg over the weekend.
Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business chief executive Melanie Veness said truck protests and the burnings had severe economic implications.
“The route is the main connector between Joburg and the port. This will deter people from using it and will have a catastrophic effect.” She called on the authorities to deal with the criminal elements behind the attacks.