File picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency(ANA).

PRETORIA - The International Cross-Border Traders Association (ICTA) on Friday urged the South African government to protect foreign bus and truck drivers amidst threats of violence from their local counterparts who accuse the immigrants of taking their jobs.

"We warn the South African government to protect foreign nationals in their country. We have previously witnessed foreign nationals getting killed, assaulted and threatened without a single person being arrested or prosecuted. South Africa is not an island in heaven. The government should respect rights of foreign nationals," ICTA president Denis Juru told African News Agency (ANA) in Pretoria.

Juru said his association had noted several threats circulating online, threatening a work stoppage and violence against foreign nationals scheduled for September 2.

"If that plan succeeds, we're going to stop all South African registered trucks, buses and flights to cross borders to any other African nation.

Foreign truck drivers have work permits to work in South Africa. The government of South Africa found it necessary to give those foreign nationals work permits, allowing them to take employment in South Africa," said Juru.

"No one has monopoly of violence. If they turn to be violent to foreign nationals, our organization shall respond accordingly."

Sources told African News Agency that ambassadors representing Southern African nations were planning to raise their unhappiness with the department of international relations and cooperation at a meeting in Pretoria on Friday.

On Wednesday, the Truckers Association of SA (TASA) warned that further work stoppages and violence in the volatile trucking industry would be a blow to the ailing South African economy.

"We have indeed received such notices about the strike. What we would first and foremost want to preach is peace. We encourage all people to be peaceful and exercise restraint," said TASA president Mary Phadi.

She said her organisation was losing sleep over the impact of the scheduled on the already bleeding South African economy.

"Our economy is not growing and these incidents and work stoppages continues to affect the income of many people in these difficult times where the country is bleeding," she said.

Earlier this week, Zambia's High Commission in Pretoria issued a travel advisory warning its citizens in the trucking business to avoid travelling to South Africa next Monday because of the threats of violence circulating.

The high commission's Naomi Nyawali said reports have been received of some Zambian truck drivers being threatened with violence ahead of the stoppage by their disgruntled South African counterparts.

"According to the information made available to the Zambian mission, some Zambian truck drivers have faced physical attacks and threats from their South African counterparts who are fighting for better conditions of services from their employers," said Nyawali.

Notices doing the rounds on Twitter and WhatsApp from unidentified individuals purporting to be representing South African truck drivers call for the nationwide stoppage on September 2 and warn that "no foreign truck drivers will be allowed to drive across South Africa".

"It is with this background that [Zambia's High Commission] would like to advise all Zambian truck drivers who are scheduled to travel to South Africa on the mentioned date not to do so until security is guaranteed," said Nyawali.

"The mission would also want to advise Zambian Truck drivers who will enter or would be working in South Africa on the 2nd of September 2019 to park their trucks in safe and secure designated places in order avoid loss of life and property. 

"The mission has in the past engaged [Pretoria's] department of international relations on the safety of Zambian truck drivers, and [was] assured of tight security measures that the South African government was putting in place."

African News Agency (ANA)