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Durban - In efforts to localise the South African truck driver industry, the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government together with law enforcement agencies clamped down on illegal truck drivers operating without legal documentation in the Bayhead area in Durban on Thursday.
With five undocumentated foreign national drivers arrested in the first hour of the multidisciplinary roadblock, KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala said the government was going to continue to work to ensure all truck drivers operated legally.
Zikalala also revealed that more than R1 billion in illicit goods were confiscated by the police over the last 12 months.
The government roadblock was initiated after outcries from a local group of truck drivers under the banner All Truck Drivers’ Foundation (ATDF), founded by KZN born Sipho Zungu.
MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison Peggy Nkonyeni and MEC for Economic Development Ravi Pillay were in attendance as well as SAPS, Metro police and the South African National Defence Force.
The roadblock was held at an ingress and egress point of the container terminal on Langerberg Road in the Bayhead area.
ATDF, which advocates for the use of South African truck drivers only, raised concerns with the government over the amount of foreign national citizens employed in the local trucking industry.
An ATDF member also attended the roadblock to monitor compliance.
“We are doing this because there have been complaints about the domination of foreign nationals in the freight and logistics industry. These foreign nationals are supposed to be driving here on permit with all documents that meet requirements of South Africa but in most cases you find that most of them are driving without those documents.
“We are also calling on the Minister (Thulas Nxesi) to expedite the policies that will regulate employment in South Africa, especially regarding what the scarce skills are. We don’t believe that companies that are based here should prioritise people from outside South Africa. We don’t believe this is a scarce skill,” Zikalala said on Friday.
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“We also want to call on the association of truck drivers to say that we are here and we are operating daily. If there are issues, let us not block the roads, let us not burn trucks but let's engage. We will also be engaging with the freight and logistics industry,” the premier added.
Pillay said that if the so-called forums want to behave like criminals or a mafia-type of organisation, then the law will have to deal with them but maintained the government will not be blind to the underlying issue.
“But we can't be blind to the underlying issues and the issue that South Africans can't stand is that why such a high percentage of foreigners are getting job opportunities here but South Africans are not and that's something we have to deal with.
“At the same time, I think what the premier has just said, making the appeal at two levels. Making an appeal to South African employers, companies, privatised South Africans. It can’t be an argument that this is a scarce skill, that is an insult to South Africans to say that they can’t drive. If there is a gap or deficiency, then let’s put in place the training mechanisms to improve them,” Pillay told IOL on Thursday.
South Africa’s freight and logistics sector is a multi-billion rand industry which contributes a huge chunk to the country and province’s GDP.
But while it remains one of the key economic sectors, the industry has faced its fair share of hiccups with regards to protests, violent attacks and even roadside looting, which may have further hurt the country’s ailing economy.
The industry was also subjected to attacks during the civil unrest in July last year, where trucks were looted, burnt and strewn across the national freeway connecting KZN and Gauteng, the N2.
Several state and civil testimonies given before the South African Human Rights Commission’s (SAHRC) hearing into the causes and effects of the civil unrest last year indicated that the “masterminds” behind the chaos knew the scale of influence the trucking industry and road infrastructure has on the country.