Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has pleaded with all those committing unlawful acts to cease with immediate effect.
“Let’s work together to rebuild the Freight and Logistics industry, which has been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. We can barely afford another disruption to our economy,” Mbalula said..
The press briefing by the Road and Freight Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC), by Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Mbalula, Police Minister Bheki Cele, and representatives of the truck industry, took place in Pretoria yesterday.
The IMC was formed with the ministries to deal with escalating road blockages and protests by disgruntled South African truck drivers, because it is felt that these protests and blockages have adverse impacts on mobility, scares foreign investors and, most importantly, has a negative impact on the economy and essential supply chains using affected corridors.
This was an engagement with employers and employees of the freight and logistics industry, to resolve disagreements around the recruitment of foreign truck drivers.
South African truck drivers accused employers of hiring more foreign nationals. They said they are overlooked because they refused to be exploited like the foreigners.
This led to the truck strike that took place last week, where truck drivers blocked the N3 highway in KwaZulu-Natal, and other national roads.
The strike brought traffic to a halt, while costing the industry thousands of rand.
Both the Department of Employment and Labour and the Department of Home Affairs reported that while some operators have asserted that South Africa lacks skilled truck drivers, the inspections and law enforcement operations have found that truck driving was an abundant skill in South Africa and, therefore, not a scarce skill as purported by some operators.
“Both the Department of Employment and Labour and Home Affairs have reported that while some operators have asserted that South African lacked skilled truck drivers, the inspection and law enforcement operations have found that truck driving was an abundant skill in South Africa,” Nxesi said.
Motsoaledi reported that Home Affairs had conducted more than 21 joint multi-disciplinary law enforcement operations and inspections, to assess the extent of use of foreign and, at times, illegal truck drivers.
The Ministry of Transport also reported on its responsibilities on the matter and the report details elements of an Action Plan drafted to tackle the challenges, from the Transport Department’s point of view.
The department said its Action Plan derives from a culmination of a series of meetings held with the industry and will form part of a blueprint to be announced once approved by all parties.
The Implementation Plan consists of the following actions:
1. Facilitate the appointment of the task team;
2. Enforcement of the VISA requirements;
3. Need for consideration of all foreign driving licenses;
4. Registration and compliance with labour laws;
5. Registration of operators in term of Section 45 of the National Road Traffic Act (NRTA);
6. Review of the Traffic Register Number;
7. Review of the Cross-Border Road Transport Legislation;
8. Amendment of the National Road Traffic Regulation;
9. Integrated joint multi-disciplinary law enforcement operations;
10. Implement Driver Training Programme; and
11. Consideration of the introduction of Operating Licenses for the industry.
The parties in attendance at the meeting agreed unanimously with the elements of the Implementation Plan, except for the Road Freight Association (RFA)’s misgivings with the introduction of Operating Licenses action 11.
The RFA CEO Gavin Kelly cautioned that if they don't deal with the core issues, they will be down this road for the next five, ten or fifteen years.
“The RFA has been making statements for five years now, If we don't deal with the core issues, we will be down this route for the next five or 10 years, or 15 years, and we will lose out as a country. I want to thank the four ministers for their dedication and willingness to listen to us,” said Kelly.
He further said: “The most important thing is that we address the issue, the core issue of non-compliant operators, those who willingly want to break the rules of the country and not comply with labour or transport legislation, we need to deal with them. That will remain our core mandate. We do not support suggestion 11, which is a very clever move for someone to try to capture the industry. We will not accept that. You either live by the rules in the country or you go somewhere else”.
Police Minister Bheki Cele said he feels like they (police) are crying at the wrong funeral, but later cautioned law breakers that they would be arrested.