Durban - FOREIGN truck drivers have been given an ultimatum to vacate their jobs at the beginning of December or face mass disruptions.
This ultimatum was issued by the All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF), a group of local truck drivers advocating for 100% employment of local truck drivers.
More than 500 members of the ATDF yesterday joined forces with members of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), homeless people, hostel dwellers and unemployed graduates to march to the Durban Harbour to protest against the continued employment of foreigners in the freight industry.
During the march, the protesters blocked Bayhead and Langeberg roads, and closed all terminal gates leading to the harbour.
They demanded that South Africantrucks not be driven by foreign nationals.
“The foreign registration trucks must be driven by foreign truck drivers, as happens in other countries such as Namibia. This must be implemented as from December 1. Enough is enough,” reads the memorandum.
The group also went to the CBD, marching from the Durban City Hall to Mahatma Gandhi( Point) Road, leading to the temporary closure of foreign- businesses in the area.
The march comes after more than 30 trucks had been torched in provinces across the country as of Thursday last week.
ATDF general secretary Sifiso Nyathi vowed that if the companies failed to meet their demands by the date given, they would ensure that they got no income.
“We do have a plan B, however I will not get into details on it. What I can tell you is that we will intensify our protests to a point where they also are not making any profit.
“Local truck drivers are starving. If they want to feed foreigners in our own country, companies are going to starve with us. We are going to make sure their economy is also affected, and that is a promise,” said Nyathi.
He said the Ministerial Task Team, composed of government departments such as Home Affairs, Labour, and Transport, to look into foreigners employed as drivers, had not produced a positive outcome.
“The government should be assisting its citizens, making sure that companies are accountable and enforcing the law around scarce skills jobs.
“We don’t know who to talk to as no one takes us seriously, this is why we are going to make sure that we deal with this in our own way,” he said.
MKMVA’s Zibuse Cele said the government should implement laws that favoured locals when it came to employment. He accused foreign nationals of stealing jobs.
“In all private companies and government departments, we want locals to be given first priority. We have a high number of unemployed graduates and truck drivers in this country, and they need jobs,” he said.
Two weeks ago, MKMVA members closed down several shops owned by foreign nationals at the Workshop Shopping Centre informal trading section.
Foreign nationals have yet to resume their businesses at the site.
“Ever since we closed down that site we are seeing an improvement, and we are going to clean this country step by step,” said Cele.
African Solidarity Network executive director Daniel Dunia said the government’s failure to take action against the threats made towards foreign nationals spoke volumes about its attitude towards them.
Dunia said the police were afraid of MKMVA and had done nothing to ensure their safety in the city.
“Law enforcement is too weak. These people are just criminals. The police and the city need to stop this because it’s getting worse,” he said.
Dunia said several foreign nationals’ shops were looted in KwaMashu B section yesterday morning.
“We are not safe in this country and soon we are going to start finding ways to protect ourselves. We can’t die like chickens, we have to fight back,” he said.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala appealed for calm and the peaceful resolution of all concerns facing truck drivers and the road freight industry.
He said they had escalated the matter to the national government as this was not just a KZN matter, but had implications for the entire Southern African Development Community region.
“The provincial government is committed to the transformation and stabilisation of the road freight and logistics industry, which is a critical sector of the provincial and national economies,” he said.
He added that they would continue to engage all relevant role-players and work within the law to negotiate solutions meant to resolve the conflict.
He said they would also work to stabilise the industry within the ambit of the country’s Constitution in the long term.
“We must, however, reiterate that we will not allow lawlessness to threaten our economy, more so as we emerge from the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We thus call on those who have grievances to work with us and not to shut down our roads, torch trucks or even resort to attacking truck drivers as has happened before.
“Where these violations take place, we expect the justice, crime prevention and security cluster of the government to respond decisively to maintain peace and order by dealing with criminality and unlawful activities in the province,” said Zikalala.