WINDHOEK – South African Transport and Logistics industries have distanced themselves from an anticipated truck driver’s strike in that country today, saying they do not support calls for national shutdown, which include increasing threats of violence against foreign truck drivers. In addition, the Namibian High Commissioner to South Africa, confirmed that no official communication was been received regarding the details of the supposed strike but called on all stakeholders to closely monitor the situation. Also, South Africa’s Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, stated that an illegal strike and unnecessary violent conduct destabilises the country and amounts to economic sabotage.
A recent spike in violence towards foreign trucks drivers, in addition to threats of a country-wide shutdown of South Africa’s trucking sector, resulted in an urgent meeting between that country’s Technical Road Freight Industry Task Team, the police and other relevant stakeholders in Durban on Friday.
At the meeting the All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF), Positive Freight Solutions (PFS) and Harbour Carriers as well as the South Africa’s Prosecuting Authority and employee organisations agreed that any individual found to perpetrating any unlawful activity will be immediately arrested and prosecuted for their crime with a zero-tolerance approach.
“Operations will therefore continue as “business as usual” on the 1st and 2nd of September 2019,” read a statement emanating from the meeting.
Meanwhile, Namibian High Commissioner to South Africa, Veiccoh Nghiwete, told New Era the mission is not in a position to comment on the alleged plan to stage a nation-wide strike as apart from the information that has been circulated on social media there was no official communication from relevant authorities or from organisers of the strike.
“The only advice the Mission can offer is for all the affected stakeholders in this sector to closely monitor the situation, said Nghiwete.
On Friday, the International Cross-Border Traders Association (ICTA 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.
A widely circulated social media message in South Africa warned trucks drivers of the expected strike.
Based on research by South Africa’s Road Freight Association, which represents road freight service providers, more than 200 people, mostly foreign truck drivers, have been killed in trucking industry-related violence South Africa since March last year. Groups of attackers claiming to be South African truck drivers have thrown petrol bombs at trucks and shot at, stoned, stabbed, and harassed foreign truck drivers to force them out of the trucking industry. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also confirmed that dozens of truck drivers in SA have died in attacks against foreigners since 2018, which has prompted HRW to call for stronger protection of foreign workers.
Industry experts believe the trucker’s woes stem from the large number of economic migrants from the Southern Africa region moving to South Africa in search of work. South African trucking companies have been accused of preferring foreign truck drivers who often work longer hours at reduced salaries, resulting in higher profits for the trucking companies. – Additional reporting by NAMPA/ANA