Authorities on full alert after truck is torched

Torched trucks during last year’s arson attacks on the N3. Source: Spicemag.

The Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) in KwaZulu-Natal has been placed on full alert after a truck was torched near the Hayfields Mall in Pietermaritzburg (PMB) just before midnight yesterday.

In an official statement RTI director Vic Chetty said “the office has become aware of the potential blockage of major routes in the province by disgruntled truck drivers”.

Last night’s arson attack, although not on the highway itself, recalled scenes reminiscent of April and June last year when violent protests brought traffic on the N3 to a standstill after local truck drivers rose up against the presumed employment by transport companies of foreign nationals.

At Mooi River a driver almost died when he was trapped in the blazing cabin of his truck set alight by an angry mob in April.

And in June traffic between Harrismith and Ladysmith was backed up in both directions after trucks barricaded the highway and goods were looted when foreign nationals were once again forced out of their trucks.

But acting CEO of the Road Freight Association, Gavin Kelly, has reiterated views expressed during last year’s N3 protests that the so-called resistance to foreign national employment isn’t necessarily behind public violence on South Africa’s busiest supply chain route.

“This is not a general labour issue nor is it the kind of situation (xenophobic) it is portrayed to be.”

He added that since last year’s protests the National Bargaining Council (NBC) had set up a task team to look into complaints of foreign nationals edging out local truck drivers but very little has transpired.

What has emerged, said Kelly, is the impression that a few destabilising interests are using a so-called labour complaint for their own ulterior motives.

“If this was a real bona fide issue about labour relations and how locals are supposedly deprived of job opportunities they would have approached the NBC, but they haven’t.”

Kelly added that even the unions were in the dark as to the real reasons for truck torching on and along the N3.

“It’s a minority of guys who are behind this and who are either not registered with any union or, most likely, aren’t interested in a peaceful resolution.”

He emphasised that the task team had, however, unearthed evidence of perpetrators but it’s uncertain when and if an announcement in this regard can be expected.

Kelly himself said the RFAwas aware of the alleged involvement of certain individuals and parties but, because of the sensitivity surrounding truck burning and the NBC’s ongoing work, was reluctant to reveal any information.

In the meantime Chetty has implored transporters to ensure that “contingency plans are put in place” from six this morning until next Sunday, 13 January.

“These plans must take into account strategic deployment of officers, proper co-ordination between various stakeholders and the availability of resources.”

Despite the truck incident in PMB, Kelly added that officials from N3 Toll Concession hadn’t reported any incidents.

“We must be careful not to brand this as an issue involving foreign nationals. There is something else behind this.”

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