Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal police have established a task team to investigate the truck attack incidents taking place in the province after two freight trucks were set alight on the N2 between Enseleni and Empangeni on Monday night.
This follows the torching of six trucks on the N3 at Van Reenen’s Pass on Saturday night. Five trucks were also torched on the N4 in Mpumalanga on Sunday night, and three trucks were burnt in Limpopo on the R547 Lydenburg road on Monday morning.
While no motive has been given for the incidents, in which the attackers all appeared to have the same modus operandi, a security company said yesterday that truck drivers attacked in the Empangeni incident had been warned that the action was linked to foreign drivers being employed in the industry.
The long-standing grievance raised by local truck drivers over the employment of foreigners saw the emergence of truck attacks in 2019. A ministerial task team was also set up to deal with employment issues in the industry.
Speaking earlier this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the incidents were economic sabotage, and that he was awaiting a report from intelligence agencies on the matter.
“The police will be taking steps to ensure that we forestall whatever followup activity those behind this are planning. We are going to ensure that we go after those people who torched those trucks as it is not acceptable that trucks and facilities that are enhancing our economy are attacked.”
KZN police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker said that two trucks were set alight as they waited in a queue along the N2 highway.
“It is alleged that a group of armed men attacked the drivers of the two trucks and robbed them of their belongings. The men were then forced out of the trucks before the trucks were set alight. The police in Empangeni are investigating a case of armed robbery, malicious damage to property and attempted murder.”
Carel Schwan of S.W.A.T. Security said they received a call on Monday after 10.30pm about the incident.
“When we got to the scene there were two trucks already burning, the third one we managed to save and transport to the truck depot. We were unable to save the two trucks as they were badly damaged. One of the truck drivers mentioned that there were warnings that were given to them, indicating that the torching of trucks was because companies are hiring foreign nationals for cheap labour,” he said.
UMhlathuze mayor Xolani Ngwezi, who visited the scene yesterday, said they sympathised with the truck owners.
“This hurts the economy of uMhlathuze and is an act of sabotage to the economy as these goods go in and out of the port of Richards Bay,’’ he said.
He called for law enforcement to attend to the incidents.
KZN MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison Sipho Hlomuka said they welcomed the news that provincial police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, had assembled a team to investigate the incidents.
Hlomuka added that he had directed all structures within the province’s Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster, including municipalities, to ensure an integrated response.
“The government is of the view that such acts of criminality must be dealt with decisively and with great speed. These incidents are undermining the progress we are making in achieving economic recovery as a province. Sabotaging the economy will result in job losses and unemployment. Efforts led by the police will continue along with the work of monitoring and ensuring visibility on strategic routes,” said Hlomuka.
KZN Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube also condemned the attacks, which she said amounted to sabotage aimed not only at the road freight industry, but which sought to paralyse the whole economy of South Africa.
Sifiso Nyathi, of the All Truck Drivers’ Forum and Allied SA, said they had nothing to do with the attacks.
“We had nothing to do with and don’t know who is responsible for this. We do know that truck employers are not doing enough to employ South African truck drivers and are employing more foreign truck drivers. How are South Africans supposed to survive with no employment? That is why we are seeing scenes like this.”
Dianne Kohler Barnard, the DA spokesperson on state security, said: “The DA will open a case in terms of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities Act and demand that the SAPS conduct a full and proper investigation into the recent attacks on trucks in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. The DA will urge the National Prosecuting Authority to proceed with charges in terms of that act.”