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Ramaphosa called on to intervene in orchestrated attacks on truckers

by Louise Burgers. Road freight calls on President to end the “war” on the trucking industry, in a strongly worded letter.

by Louise Burgers. In a strongly worded letter addressed to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the CEO of The Road Freight Association, Gavin Kelly, has called for an end to the “sabotage” and “outright war on the South African economy and its citizens”, as attacks on trucks continue across South Africa in what he terms “coordinated attacks”.

Said Kelly: “We need to stop this now and arrest and hold those perpetrating these attacks accountable for their deeds.” He denies the attacks have anything to do with claims that foreign nationals are hired in droves as truck drivers; and instead says there are criminal forces behind the destabalisation of the industry, as attacks are being carried out with “military precision”.

At least 25 trucks have been either petrol bombed, shot at or stoned in the past week, according to media reports. The Citizen reported that nine trucks were set alight on the N3 highway in KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday night, leaving some drivers with injuries. The All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF) has also called for a three-day stoppage this week to protest against the hiring of foreign nationals.

“The increase in lawlessness, common criminality, looting, arson, pillaging, intimidation, blackmail and numerous other clever schemes, has been systematically orchestrated against individuals, businesses, organised labour, the economy, and the very fabric of the freedom to economic activity. In instances where companies or individuals illegally employ foreign nationals, this must be addressed within the ambit of the South African law. The country cannot allow this state of lawlessness to continue.

“These attacks are being carried out with military precision, indicating that there is a strong coordinated leadership element with some level of formal military training. We are not clear on what the objective is, but the destabilisation of the country seems to be large part of this. This is sabotage, this is outright war on the South African economy and its citizens. We need to stop this now and arrest and hold those perpetrating these attacks accountable for their deeds,” urged Kelly in his letter to Ramaphosa.

The RFA and its union partners have been petitioning Government since 2018 when attacks on trucks escalated beyond common criminality. Despite numerous meetings, the RFA said the issues have not been resolved and trucking companies continue being targeted.

The full text of the letter is below:

Gavin Kelly.

Mr President,

Again, the road freight companies (truckers) find themselves being attacked by forces under the pretext of foreign nationals “taking jobs away from citizens”. This results in damaged and totally destroyed lives, companies, employment opportunities, economic activity, goods, vehicles, facilities, roads and foreign investment to move goods through South Africa into Africa.

Mr President – this is not what we all envisaged as economic recovery. We are concerned that the lack of action from government creates the impression that it is complacent regarding this type of protest action – given the fact that the Minister of Police has done nothing of substantive value to prevent and stop this type of activity. Everything has been reactive – and the latest call for a plan to address this (through a coordinated national approach) is scheduled for discussion after the recently announced period of further action, as communicated by the ATDF.

We need to protect every citizen’s constitutional right to safety, security and the ability to live and work without hinderance (subject to them respecting and abiding by the very same Constitution and the various legislative requirements of the country). This matter has been with us for over three years now and nothing – other than the shifting of blame and endless talks – has transpired. No resolution has been forthcoming.

The Association has, together with the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry (NBCRFLI) – which includes organised labour (unions) – met on numerous occasions with relevant Ministers; been involved in the Ministerial Task Team created to address this; forwarded proposals and actions to address the matter; and attempted to resolve all labour related matters through the structures created by the NBCRFLI. However, there are roles required by the various government agencies that have not been implemented effectively, nor urgently enough to address this very serious matter.

Council has a scheduled meeting with the ATDF on 1 December 2020 – however, the ATDF, together with various other groupings, has shown their hand in pressing on with destabilisation tactics with the announcement of further action across the country over the period 23 – 25 November 2020. We have seen South African citizens attacked, seriously injured and even killed in this activity
“aimed at foreign drivers”. Clearly, this is not about foreign drivers.

The increase in lawlessness, common criminality, looting, arson, pillaging, intimidation, blackmail and numerous other clever schemes, has been systematically orchestrated against individuals, businesses, organised labour, the economy and the very fabric of the freedom to economic activity. In instances where companies or individuals illegally employ foreign nationals, this must be addressed within the ambit of the South African law. The country cannot allow this state of lawlessness to continue.

These attacks are being carried out with military precision, indicating that there is a strong coordinated leadership element with some level of formal military training. We are not clear on what the objective is, but the destabilisation of the country seems to be large part of this. This is sabotage, this is outright war on the South African economy and its citizens. We need to stop this now and arrest and hold those perpetrating these attacks accountable for their deeds.

This will escalate into widespread confrontation as frustrated, angry and financially stressed citizens take the necessary steps to protect their employees, assets, property and the sustainability of their businesses, into their own hands. This is something that we must all work towards preventing, with your administration taking the lead role in resolving and addressing the issues and ensuring the safety of citizens and the economic infrastructure and services.

Mr President – we respectfully require your urgent intervention, through your call to all stakeholders to partner in finding a solution to this crisis. Whilst we all must remain mindful of not entertaining rogue groups which will try to take advantage of situations, we must create an opportunity for all stakeholders to participate. We look towards your leadership – to drive the project to an effective solution.

Yours sincerely,

Gavin Kelly
Chief Executive Officer
The Road Freight Association

 

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