Calls for truck arsonists to face terrorism charges, as police top brass to address nation

One of the two trucks torched between eNseleni and eMpangeni on Tuesday. Picture: Supplied.

One of the two trucks torched between eNseleni and eMpangeni on Tuesday. Picture: Supplied.

Published Jul 12, 2023


Police Minister Bheki Cele, Police Commissioner General Fannie Masemola and top cops from KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Gauteng are expected on Wednesday expected to provide a response amid the torching of at least 16 trucks being set alight this week.

The seemingly co-ordinated fashion in which the trucks have come under attack, with armed assailants using at least two cars before setting the trucks alight, has raised questions, while the lack of crime intelligence has been questioned.

KZN police commissioner, Lieutenant General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi; Limpopo Lieutenant General Thembi Hadebe; Mpumalanga Lieutenant General Semakaleng Manamela; and Gauteng’s Lieutenant General Elias Mawela, along with Cele and Masemola, are expected to provide a comprehensive response and brief the nation on possible arrests and the cause of the burning of trucks.

The first trucks were burnt on KZN’s N3 highway on Sunday, which was incidentally, the second anniversary of the July 2021 riots.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, at least two trucks were torched on the N2 near Piet Retief. The day before, a total of 11 trucks had been set alight, with five trucks seeing a fiery demise in Mpumalanga, along with the six trucks which were torched in KZN on the N3.

A further three trucks were torched in Limpopo’s R547 highway on Tuesday, taking the toll of burnt trucks to 14.

The July 2021 riots were sparked, initially by the burning of trucks on the N3 highway, before roads were blocked — including disruptions at toll roads at the time, before grand scale rampant and devastating looting followed at shopping malls and strategic distribution hubs across KZN and in Gauteng.

Over 350 people died during the looting and the riots, which quickly followed after the July 2021 arrest of former president Jacob Zuma, who had been handed a 10 month direct imprisonment sentence by the Constitutional Court for being in contempt of court.

The police top brass are expected to hold a media briefing at the SA Police Service Tshwane College in Pretoria at 11.30am on Wednesday.

“The briefing which will be attended by the provincial commissioners of the affected provinces, who will provide updates on the police’s response to the acts of criminality as well as plans in place to track down the culprits and bring them all to book,” said the SAPS in a media invite.

Meanwhile, DA MP and spokesperson on state security, Dianne Kohler Barnard, said the suspects had to be charged on terrorism charges in line with anti-terrorism legislation.

“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,” she said.

Kohler Barnard said the arsonists were “economic terrorists” and charging them under the terms of the POCDATARA Act would send a strong message to any criminal intending to commit acts of sabotage such as these.

“The DA unreservedly condemns these strategically calculated attacks on our road freight sector the last few days. These attacks threaten our national stability and strike at the heart of our economy,” she said.

AfriForum has urged Cele and President Cyril Ramaphosa to urgently convene a multi-faceted task force to arrest those responsible for the recent truck fires.

“It is clear that this is a coordinated effort by groups to commit sabotage, terrorize truck drivers and do economic damage to transport companies and the country’s economy,” AfriForum’s strategic advisor, Johan Kruger said.

“Urgent intervention at various levels is now needed and Cele cannot bury his head in the sand now.”

He also slammed the police’s inability to act quickly and decisively, saying the police had again given criminals a free pass to destabilise the country.