Durban - Truck drivers who returned to the N3 following the route’s week-long closure have raised concerns about their safety since widespread riots and looting left many businesses destroyed, trucks burnt and stock stolen.
The massive destruction to businesses and the attacks on trucks have left the drivers feeling scared.
Free State truck driver Bongani Hadebe said he was stranded in Durban from last Sunday, when the riots and looting erupted.
“We’ve been struggling to get food and find bathrooms to use,” he said.
According to Hadebe, they had access to tuck shops, where they survived by eating biscuits and other small snacks that were available at a nearby petrol station.
He said they were gripped with fear when they heard about trucks being burnt and companies looted.
“I transport mealie meal, and I wasn’t sure if they’ll come for me. We stayed at a truck stop, but there was only one security guard, so we knew that only we could guard our own trucks. Thank God nothing happened to us, but I was so sad for my friends who don’t have jobs now,” Hadebe said.
Another truck driver, Alfred Masango of Sesfigile Logistics, criticised the government for its failure to protect truck drivers and their cargo.
He said the government did not care about them.
“We are suffering. Our government doesn’t listen to the drivers,” he said.
Masango said the lack of police manning the roads have left them fending for themselves.
“We can’t even leave the trucks to go to the bathroom while we on the road,” he said.
Masango said he and his colleagues had been stranded in their trucks for the past five days because of the widespread looting and riots.
This, however, was nothing new, he said.
Masango said their lives have always been in danger, and the looting and torching of trucks have always been at the forefront of their minds when they travelled.
He said truck drivers continuously live and drive in fear, “and it’s not only now; it’s always like this”.
The N3 Toll Route between Durban and Heidelberg returned to some normality this weekend as trucks made their way in and out of KwaZulu-Natal.
Law enforcement authorities announced the full reopening of the N3 Toll Route between Cedara in KwaZulu-Natal and Heidelberg in Gauteng.
The route had been closed for almost a week since the unrest started in these two provinces, which resulted in shortages of food, fuel and medicine.
Deliveries of fresh bread and milk and other produce were halted because of the closure of the N3, the shutdown of a number of production plants, and the destruction of warehouses.
Residents living in Howick, a small town outside Pietermaritzburg, have been forced to travel kilometres in search of a store selling groceries after the town’s Spar was looted last week.
The Merrivale Spar was the closest and most convenient food retailer in the area for many families living in Howick.
Andrew Kalika, an elderly man who walks with the aid of a walking stick, said he had to walk more than 5km to find bread and meat.
He said he managed to buy a tray of sausages and a few other items, such as potatoes and other vegetables, but the prices had increased because of limited stock.
“It’s really terrible what happened. This Spar was so close to us and affordable. Now we walk so far to buy a few things, and it’s expensive. We can’t even find bread,” Kalika said.
Small towns in the Midlands have been hard hit by food shortages after their stores were looted and damaged. Trucks transporting food could not reach them because of the violent unrest in KwaZulu-Natal.