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ARSON ATTACK

Van Reenen’s Pass reopened in KZN after gunmen set fire to six trucks on the N3

Van Reenen’s Pass reopened in KZN after gunmen set fire to six trucks on the N3
Six trucks were set alight on Van Reenen's Pass in KwaZulu-Natal. (Photo: Twitter / @Abramjee)

A clean-up operation was under way at Van Reenen’s Pass in KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday after six trucks were set alight in the early hours of the morning. A group of armed men stopped the trucks on the N3, forced drivers out of their vehicles and set the trucks on fire before fleeing.

The N3 Toll Route at Van Reenen’s Pass has been reopened to traffic after six trucks were torched by a group of gunmen in the early hours of Sunday morning. 

The southbound lanes on Van Reenen’s Pass opened on Sunday, accommodating both directions of traffic using contraflow, said Thania Dhoogra, N3 Toll Concession spokesperson.

The northbound carriageway towards Johannesburg will, however, remain closed until repairs are completed. Motorists have been urged to avoid the area, where there are heavy traffic delays. 

Police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker said that a gang of armed men forced six truck drivers to halt on Van Reenen’s Pass.

“They then set all six trucks alight, causing the roadway to be closed to traffic,” he said. 

No injuries were reported and the motive for the attack is unknown. Naicker was unable to confirm reports that shots were fired on the scene. 

Naicker said detectives were investigating a case of malicious damage to property and that a large police deployment including the Public Order Policing Unit was monitoring the situation. 

Well-coordinated attack 

In a statement issued by the Road Freight Association, the association’s CEO, Gavin Kelly, described the events as a well-coordinated attack on the road freight sector.

“Both the specific spot on the N3 as well as the timing were chosen to cause the best outcome in terms of mayhem and disruption,” the statement read.

The road freight sector carries 80% of the goods that are moved in and around South Africa.

Attacks on the road leg of logistics supply chains can have devastating consequences, including job losses as trade moves away from South Africa. 

“The scene that played out on the N3 at Van Reenen’s Pass in the early hours of 9 July 2023 was a ruthless attack on the road freight supply chain — and the effects (economic, business confidence, security, law and order and corridor movement) are far-reaching,” said Kelly. 

He said the immediate short-term losses could be millions of rands, including the cost of vehicles, cargo, personal effects, road damage, EMS response, delays in movement and shipping penalties.

The long-term impact will be felt in terms of increased security costs into the cost of logistics, higher insurance premiums, higher toll fees, less freight movement through South Africa, closure of freight companies and the loss of jobs. 

There was no looting of the vehicles and none of the drivers or staff in the vehicles was injured, according to the Road Freight Association. 

It has called for arrests to be made and action to be taken against those responsible for the attack.

“The targeted precision of the attack is worrying. This was well planned and efficiently implemented. At this point, no group has acknowledged that they are responsible,” said Kelly.

It is unclear if specific companies were targeted and attacked, or whether the trucks were chosen at random. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: 54 people to appear in court after 35 trucks damaged in violent N3 protest

Blocking roads and torching trucks on the N3 is not a new phenomenon in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. During at least the past five years, hundreds of trucks have been set alight, which appears to be linked to protests by SA drivers demanding jobs. DM

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