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Truck attacks: draft policy to limit foreign truck drivers working in South Africa greeted with caution

The government’s moves to limit the number of foreigners working in South Africa, have been cautiously welcomed by labour and employers, both stressing that it needed to strengthen its enforcement division.

A policeman points as flames and smoke emerge from a truck after it was set alight by striking truck drivers on a slipway off a highway leading out of Cape Town. Picture: AP

Published May 26, 2021

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DURBAN - THE GOVERNMENT’s moves to limit the number of foreigners working in South Africa, have been cautiously welcomed by labour and employers, both stressing that it needed to strengthen its enforcement division.

Labour and Employment Department spokesperson Musa Zondi confirmed yesterday that a draft policy was before Cabinet and that the inter-ministerial committee of various government departments, including transport, home affairs and labour and employment, had been set up.

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It focuses on all spheres of employment and cuts across industries varying from hospitality and tourism, to agriculture and security. But it is the transport industry that has been the focus area, because of continued allegations by local drivers that the sector was overloaded with foreign truck drivers.

The transport sector has been affected by truck attacks since 2019 across the country, especially in KZN, where vehicles were torched and foreign drivers assaulted in some incidents. Local driver associations, who have been vocal about foreigners being preferred by employers in the sector, have denied any involvement in the violence.

As part of the initiatives to tackle problems in the sector, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula last month published a draft amendment to the National Road Traffic Regulations. It deals with the professional driving permit required for truck drivers, among others.

According to the amendment, the authority provided by a professional driving permit issued in a foreign country shall apply to a vehicle registered in the country that issued the permit and not to vehicles registered in South Africa.

This would mean that foreign truck drivers with professional driving permits issued from other countries would not be allowed to drive South African trucks.

All Truck Drivers Forum Secretary Sifiso Nyathi said yesterday that they hoped the moves would curb the influx of foreign truck drivers in the industry.

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As he had over the years observed how laws had sometimes changed from how they were originally drafted, Nyathi said the organisation would adopt a wait-and-see approach before celebrating a victory.

Citing the violent incidents during the protest by local drivers last year against the influx of foreign drivers, Nyathi said it was important for government to be firm against companies that employed foreign nationals, some of whom had entered South Africa illegally.

The South African Transport and Allied Workers echoed the sentiment for government to enforce its laws and punish companies that broke the law.

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The union’s deputy secretary-general, Anele Kiet, said: “If companies follow the prescripts of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and government through its officials see to it that everything is followed accordingly, there will be no problems.”

Road Freight Association’s Gavin Kelly said he was hopeful the changes would bring stability to the sector.

“From the side of the employer no one wants to see any violence that would disturb the flow of goods. The rail network is not in a shape to handle all the cargo movement in the country. So as things stand, road transport is the backbone of the country’s economy and it is important to make sure that it works efficiently,” said Kelly.

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THE MERCURY

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