Durban – Trucking companies said on Monday they would not tolerate attacks on their drivers, following the torching of 17 trucks in KwaZulu-Natal at the weekend.
Representing the trucking industry, Advocate Pria Hassan, of Positive Freight Solutions Forum, was speaking during a media briefing in Durban following two days of stakeholder engagements in the province over the escalation in burning and looting of trucks, as well as attacks on drivers.
Also present at the meeting were KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala, Police Minister Bheki Cele, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi and national police commissioner, General Khehla Sitole.
“Our priority is our people, we will not tolerate an attack on our people, meaning our drivers. They are a key asset to this country and have by far the worst kind of living conditions daily on the road, which we have tried very hard to improve,” Hassan said.
KwaZulu-Natal experiences frequent attacks on trucks, with many of them being torched along the N3 highway, a critical route between the Durban port and inland.
Hassan said that over the past three weeks, more than 60 trucks had come under attack and there were “a lot of injuries” of drivers.
Local drivers have allegedly been attacking the vehicles and threatening foreign drivers, who they accuse of taking jobs meant for locals. The disgruntled drivers also accuse truck company owners of hiring foreigners over locals.
Zikalala said that following stakeholder meetings on Sunday and Monday morning, all parties decided that the police would establish a rapid response team to attend to the attacks.
The premier said that attacks on foreigners would not be tolerated.
He said that the department of employment and labour and the premier’s office would lead a task team to address the grievances of the drivers and of the owners and operators.
Truck owners also had to ensure that they were compliant, Zikalala said.
“In this regard, illegal employment must be stopped. The process will ensure reviewing legislation that includes laws allowing people to employ people from other countries as drivers here, without any pre-conditions attached,” he said.
It was also agreed that the government and truck owners would jointly fund a programme to develop the skills of drivers.
A database of drivers was also to be established, said Zikalala, which would offer companies a large pool of employees from which to hire.
“We will all go [from today’s meetings] to our stakeholders and report what has been discussed and ensure we all agree on a process. There might be a number of issues that emerge, but we don’t expect any disruptions anymore.
“In two weeks time, the task team will come together to meet again regarding the issues raised. We want this process to be driven as quick as possible,” Zikalala said.
Hassan said owners were seeking assurance that there would be “no less than a five-minute response time when there are attacks on our people and our trucks”.
“I am making an urgent plea to communities and individuals who watch or victimise or become aware of plans of these attacks, to please feed that information through to your task teams. We are committed to work with all stakeholders, including the All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF), but it must come with equal commitment, there must be no intimidation, violence or killing,” Hassan said.
Representing ATDF, Sipho Zungu said drivers were committed to ending the violence, but added: “We can’t overlook that we are against the hiring of foreign employment in this industry. Give South African people the first priority in the industry.”
African News Agency (ANA)