Army sent to hotspots to curb truck arson attacks
The South African National Defence Force has been deployed to several hotspots in four provinces amid a spate of truck arson attacks. Twenty-one have been torched in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Three suspects have been arrested so far.
SANDF spokesperson Simhiwe Dlamini confirmed on Friday that soldiers have been deployed in the four provinces to help the police protect trucks and their routes.
They had been sent to hotspots, including the N3 toll gates at Mooi River and Marianhill. This follows the torching of 21 trucks since Sunday, 9 July, which marked the second anniversary of the July 2021 unrest. This fuelled speculation that this is the motivation for the attacks.
Police Minister Bheki Cele has been quick to dismiss the idea, saying there was no evidence linking these incidents to the July riots.
According to Cele, intelligence suggests the attacks on trucks may be business related, and they are not random acts of criminality. Evidence pointed to coordinated and sophisticated operations that seek to undermine and sabotage the state.
The minister reiterated that whether it is economic sabotage or service delivery-related disputes, the police are closing in on the perpetrators.
In one attack, at Van Reenen’s Pass the early hours of Sunday, resulted in the N3, a key artery in the South African economy, being closed for several hours.
These incidents are also a potential embarrassment for the government, which is hosting the 41st annual Southern African Transport Conference in Pretoria, and which was opened by Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga.
‘Hot on the heels’
According to National Police Commissioner, General Fannie Masemola, the net is closing on those behind the attacks.
Police were “hot on the heels” of the ringleaders. “Either they hand themselves over or we fetch them ourselves.”
But Gavin Kelly, CEO of the Road Freight Association, has no confidence in the capacity of the police to curb the attacks.
Meanwhile three suspects are expected to appear in court on Monday, 21 July on a count of malicious damage to property. More arrests involving the ringleaders are imminent, according to national police spokesperson, Brigadier Athlenda Mathe.
A multidisciplinary team investigating the attacks made its first arrests in Mpumalanga on Thursday morning.
According to Mathe, two men, aged 29 and 27, were arrested at their place of residence – one on a farm in Piet Retief, with the help of a private security firm, and the other in Ermelo. A third suspect was arrested in Emalahleni, Mpumalanga on Wednesday night. DM
- KwaZulu-Natal: Nine trucks have been attacked since Sunday, 9 July. In the first incident, six were torched on Van Reenen’s Pass on Sunday night. One driver refused to stop when accosted by the group of armed men, who shot at the truck. The driver managed to drive away unharmed. One truck was burnt on the N11 in Engogo, and two were set alight on the N2 in Empangeni, where armed men robbed the two drivers on Monday, 10 July; and
- Mpumalanga: Nine trucks have been torched, the latest in the early hours of this morning between Ermelo and Sheepmore, where four trucks were attacked and set alight. Five trucks were set alight and attacked on Sunday evening on the N4 near Waterval Boven.
Limpopo: In the early hours of Monday, 10 July, three trucks heading to the local chrome mine along the R577 between Lydenburg and Sekhukhune in Limpopo, were attacked and burnt by six armed men.