South Africa

TRANSPORT VIOLENCE

SA truck drivers must get jobs ahead of foreigners, inquiry is told

SA truck drivers must get jobs ahead of foreigners, inquiry is told
The stand-off between South African and foreign national truck drivers has culminated in violence, with trucks being set alight and drivers intimidated. One was recently assaulted in Margate in KwaZulu-Natal. . (Photo: Gallo Images / Nardus Engelbrecht)

Conflict between South African and foreign truck drivers has been highlighted at an inquiry into violence in the industry.

The chairperson of the All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF), Xolani Mthethwa, through his spokesperson Zweli Ndaba yesterday told the SA Human Rights Commission’s investigation into violence in the long-distance truck and freight industry that South African truck drivers deserve jobs ahead of foreign nationals.

Ndaba spoke on Mthethwa’s behalf as Mthethwa was unwell.

He told the commission that foreign nationals cannot be hired ahead of South Africans. 

“The law is clear that anyone coming to South Africa to invest in South Africans should at least have R5-million capital. In light of this, we are therefore not happy that freight companies were employing foreign nationals when locals, young people for that matter, sleep under bridges.”

Ndaba said in terms of the Employment Equity Act foreign nationals should only be employed in instances where locals do not possess the skill required for the task. 

He told the commission the issue of non-compliance by eight companies was the main source of conflict in the truck industry. He said the police had failed to help. 

“We then approached Gauteng Premier David Makhura’s office but doors were shut there too.

“We are saying South Africa is for citizens first, then when we are satisfied with ourselves we can cater for foreign nationals.”

Some of the issues which often led to conflict in the truck industry were alluded to by the first witness at the commission, Ngqabutho Mabona. Mabona represented the African Diaspora Forum, but said he was making his submission as the chair of the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa.

He said his meetings with people in the industry, including Zimbabwean truck drivers, exposed intense competition between South African and migrant drivers.

Mabona told the commission that another source of conflict in long-distance truck operations was the foreign drivers’ willingness to work extended hours.

He told the commission that Zimbabwean truck drivers had not been affiliated with unions before the African Diaspora Forum and the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa intervened. 

“The department of labour should clarify the issue of permits because it is a source of huge conflict in the truck industry,” he said.

Busisiwe Goba of the Road Freight Association (RFA) told the commission that immigration permits were at the centre of the conflict in the industry. She said the RFA did not have the scope to resolve disputes and depended on the National Bargaining Council.

Goba told the commission that if they employed non-nationals they had to have work permits. “We were happy to find that they comply,” she said. Goba said the RFA had recorded 463 violent attacks, 124 of which were not related to truck driver violence. She said lack of police visibility was a huge problem.

Goba said there was evidence that members of the South African Police Service stood by and did nothing during one of the attacks on trucks supposedly driven by foreign nationals. 

Human Rights Commission chair Angie Makwetla said that in 2018 more than 200 non-nationals were killed in the SA road freight industry. She said most were killed by having petrol bombs thrown at their trucks, being shot, stoned or stabbed by groups of people claiming to be South African truck drivers.

Makwetla said that in 2019, 68 incidents of truck violence were reported with 18 deaths.

Major-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi told the commission that 279 attacks were reported in a space of two years. He said 134 of these cases had been finalised with 63 arrests made. DM

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