Truck attacks – five torched on N4 in Waterval Boven, follows similar attack on N3
The winter truck-burning season has ignited on key South African highways, with incidents at Van Reenen’s Pass on the N3 in KwaZulu-Natal and on the N4 at Waterval Boven in Mpumalanga. Police say it is too early to say whether the incidents are linked, but two years after the July 2021 riots, this kind of criminality is ominous.
Mpumalanga police say the N4 was closed for a few hours on Monday at Waterval Boven after five trucks were forced off the road and set alight late on Sunday night. The incident comes in the wake of a similar attack in the early hours of Sunday at Van Reenen’s Pass, during which the N3, a key artery of the South African economy, also closed for several hours.
“We are not sure whether they are related or not for now. We are not sure if it was just pure criminality or if it was related to the attack in KZN,” Mpumalanga police spokesperson Brigadier Selvy Mohlala told Daily Maverick.
Investigations are ongoing and Mohlala said officers remained on the scene at Waterval Boven, where a visible police presence is no doubt welcome.
Mohlala said the trucks targeted in the Mpumalanga attack had various cargoes, including citrus and coal. They had been travelling in the west-bound lanes towards Gauteng.
On the N3, the south-bound lanes were initially opened on Sunday in a manner that allowed traffic to flow in both directions.
Read more in Daily Maverick: KZN’s deadly, truck-heavy highways need relief from a functioning rail network
This kind of criminality is always worrying. Disruptions on two highways that are critical to the movement of goods and commodities underline the consequences to the South African economy of crime, which is estimated to be as much as R1-trillion a year.
This is also July, and the incidents unnervingly coincide roughly with the second anniversary of a wave of truck attacks on the N3 that triggered more than a week of rioting and looting in KZN and parts of Gauteng, during which more than 350 people were killed and caused damage worth R50-billion.
Hopefully, the latest incidents will prove to be isolated and not snowball into a season of truck braais. The potential for social unrest in South Africa is very high in the face of an unfolding cost-of-living crisis, crippling power shortages and rising political tensions ahead of the 2024 elections. This is a space to watch closely. DM