A file picture of two cargo-carrying trucks that were set alight in Colenso,KwaZulu Natal. Picture by SA Long Distance Truckers.
Pretoria - The South African road transport industry and backbone of the economy is being sabotaged by a Mafia-like third force that is intimidating truck drivers and business.

Economists, insurers and private investigators said yesterday the economy was negatively affected by people who burnt and hijacked goods and trucks on freeways.

They said the government and policing authorities were not doing enough to help businesses and truck drivers, who now operated in fear.

Economist Mike Schussler said South Africa, unlike some Western countries, did not have a great river transport system, so relied on the already expensive road transport system to move important goods across the country and overseas.

He said the sabotage of this system was much bigger than just a number of incidents where trucks were burnt, looted or hijacked. These events would cripple the economy, ruin South Africa’s relations with other countries, kill small businesses, hamper insurers, and break the morale of drivers, who were the biggest assets of companies in transport.

The experts said there were people who intimidated drivers because they wanted transport companies to pay them R350 a month for a driver who was a member of their organisation. They also wanted foreign drivers to be dismissed.

They said all events that affected road transport needed to be tackled quickly, whether caused by protesters, truck hijackers or xenophobia.

The problem had been going on for a while, but there were not enough convictions.

The government did not know how to handle the truck violence, even when it sometimes knew where the hot spots were, said Schussler. He added that transport was just as critical to the economy as electricity.

Schussler said the culprits were basically destroying the country’s economy from within. He said there were groups that negotiated with transport companies and demanded fees to which they were not entitled.

Hollard bureau operations manager Elka du Piesanie said Hollard was monitoring scores of trucks on the roads and paying millions in claims due to damages.

She said roads that had become hot spots for frequent protests included the N3 to Mooi River, N3 to Tugela, R59 to Meyerton, R550 to Eikenhof and R101 and N1 to Hammanskraal.

Private investigator Daniel Day said drivers had lost confidence in the police and were considering resigning.

Pretoria News