In South Africa, two more trucks have been burnt by locals in KZN, making the number of burnt trucks 13 for what is believed to be a protest over the continued employment by companies of foreign drivers.
The N3 toll road at Van Reenen’s Pass in KwaZulu-Natal was closed for several hours on Sunday and reopened at about 12.30pm follwing the torching of trucks. Just hours later, a further five trucks were torched on the N4 near Waterval Boven in Mpumalanga.
The latest attacks on the road freight sector took place on the second anniversary of the July 2021 riots that caused more than R50 billion in damage to infrastructure and businesses and about 350 deaths. The 2021 violence and looting kicked off with protests on the N3 starting on 8 July that year.
Centre For Risk Analysis research head Chris Hattingh said the timing of the riots could be designed to send a message.
“Given that the latest torchings of trucks are taking place around the anniversary of the July 2021 unrest and violence, the intention could be to send a message. That the underlying frustrations and issues remain, and that critical routes such as the N3 corridor between Gauteng and KZN could again be disrupted,” Hattingh said.
However, he said it was unclear at this stage if this amounted to sabotage as the recent attacks were “not intense and sustained enough”.
On Monday, Mpumalanga police spokesperson Brigadier Selvy Mohlala said police were still at the scene where five trucks were set alight on the N4 at about 1am on Sunday. “We don’t know the motive. It is alleged that two vehicles came in and stopped those particular trucks, instructed the drivers to get out of the trucks and then they set the trucks alight,” Mohlala said.
“For now we have not arrested anyone, we are still on the scene and would advise motorists coming from Pretoria towards Nelspruit to utilise the Schoemanskloof turn-off, and they need to drive with caution. We are continuing with our investigation.”
In KZN the police said said a gang of armed men had forced six trucks to stop their vehicles on Van Reenens Pass at about 10pm on Saturday night.
“They then set all six trucks alight, causing the roadway to be closed to traffic. No injuries were reported. At this stage the motive for the attack is unknown,” Naicker said.
Van Reenen detectives were investigating a case of malicious damage to property and a large police deployment, including the public order policing unit, was monitoring the situation.
Road Traffic Inspectorate spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said the N3 had reopened at about 12.30pm on Sunday after a long clean-up overnight in misty conditions.
“We commend the work done by law enforcement who are ensuring no further incidents take place in the area. Police have also confirmed that they are investigating the perpetrators behind this barbaric act. We view it as barbaric because it is tantamount to economic sabortage, ” he said.
Ncalane said the provincial government was in discussions with the logistics sector and grievances could be raised in this forum rather than through violent protests. He said police were monitoring the route to prevent further incidents.
Road Freight Association CEO Gavin Kelly said the organisation could not accept the scenes that played out the N3 highway “as anything else but a coordinated attack on the road freight sector”.
“Both the specific spot on the N3, as well as the timing, were chosen to cause the best outcome in terms of mayhem and disruption,” Kelly said.
The road freight sector transports 80% of goods moved in and around South Africa, as well as cargo moving to and from countries that trade with international markets and use the country’s ports for their imports and exports.
“Those who attack the road leg of logistics supply chains need to understand that the long-term effects will bring greater destruction to employment levels, and will result in further job losses, as businesses and supporting sectors shrink and trade moves away from South Africa,” Kelly said.
He said the incident was a “ruthless attack on the road freight supply chain” and the effects, including on the economy, business confidence, security, law and order and corridor movement, were far reaching.
“With regard to freight and the economy of South Africa, without trucks, South Africa stops,” he said.
Whilst the immediate short-term losses will run into millions of rands – including the cost of vehicles, cargo, personal effects, road damage, EMS response, delays in movement and shipping penalties – the long-term impact will be felt in terms of increased security costs into the cost of logistic, higher insurance premiums, higher Sasria (South African Special Risk Insurance Association) cover premiums, higher toll fees, less freight movement through South Africa, closure of freight companies and loss of jobs.”
The latest incidents come after two trucks were torched on the N2 South of Durban allegedly during service delivery protests last weekend.
-Mail & Guardian