The Road and Freight Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC), in partnership with road and freight industry stakeholders, have agreed and signed an 11-point action plan to deal with industry challenges and the recruitment of foreign nationals that led to recent further blockades on the N3.
However, the Road Freight Association (RFA), which is a signatory to the agreement, has defiantly stated it will “never agree” with point 11 of the action plan, which proposes the introduction of operating licences for the industry.
All the other stakeholders expressed their support for the plan.
They were the Truckers Association of SA (TASA), All Truck Drivers Forum and Allied SA (ATDF-SA), SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry (NBCRFLI) and Motor Transport Workers Union (Mtwu).
RFA CEO Gavin Kelly said on Monday the most important thing is to address the core issue, which is non-compliant operators.
Kelly said these are those who willingly want to break the rules in the country and not comply with either labour legislation or transport legislation.
‘Clever move’ to try and capture the industry
But Kelly said: “We do not support suggestion 11, which is a very clever move by someone to try and capture the industry. We will not accept that.”
He told Moneyweb TASA is pushing this issue.
“Their proposal to government was that they would create an agency and would then issue operating licences to freight companies.”
Kelly stressed that the idea of a private institution creating a government agency to “regulate” the freight industry is unacceptable.
He added that the idea to bring back the archaic route and distance “operator licences” that existed before the “deregulation of road freight” in the 1980s, and propose the implementation of a taxi industry style operator licence, shows both a total lack of understanding of how the freight and logistics sector operates “as well as a hidden attempt to capture the industry”.
Kelly said the various authorities that are responsible for registration and regulation of operators in the sector are mandated and empowered to perform these functions without the need to further burden the citizenry with another expensive yet ineffective agency.
‘Urgent’ need, says truckers association
However, TASA president Mary Phadi emphasised the importance of the industry being regulated and called for “the urgent reintroduction of the operating licences in South Africa”.
“It will address the non-progressive apartheid policies that denied majority key players, in particular, in the economics stream of this country,” she said.
“The implementation plan … will make sure that we go in the right direction and assist with the concerns of truck drivers. This is a great breakthrough for our country,” she said.
This ‘is not going to be easy’ – Mbalula
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said it is not going to be easy going forward on some of these issues but the IMC will negotiate a path to ensure that the 11-point plan is implemented.
“Where we still don’t agree, we will still engage going forward.
“As stakeholders we need to distance ourselves from violence and blockades that are occurring in our roads, as these have dire consequences for our economy.
“It is now incumbent upon leaders of ATDF and others to ensure that their members adhere to the spirit of this compact and work tirelessly towards its implementation.
“Government will not tolerate any road blockades and the full might of the law will take effect with fear,” he said.
‘Very negative impacts’ – Nxesi
Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi said the IMC was formed to deal with escalating road blockages and protests by disgruntled South Africa truck drivers because it is felt these protests and blockages have adverse impacts on mobility, scare foreign investors, and most importantly have very negative impacts on the economy and essential supply chains using affected corridors.
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He said the protests have been a response by truck drivers based on their perceptions the industry is employing foreign truck drivers at the exclusion of South African drivers on a pretext of a scarcity of skilled truck drivers in South Africa.
Nxesi said inspections and law enforcement operations have found that truck driving is an abundant skill in South Africa and therefore not a scarce skill as purported by some operators.
The Department of Home Affairs reported that it had conducted more than 21 joint multi-disciplinary law enforcement operations and inspections to assess the extent of use of foreign and at times illegal truck drivers.
The operations conducted across the country saw 213 arrests of foreign truck drivers found to be in contravention of immigration laws, with 19 of these drivers in possession of fraudulent documentations.
Minister of Police Bheki Cele said four or five arrests had been made related to last week’s blockade.
Nxesi said the implementation plan consists of the following actions:
Facilitate the appointment of the task team;
Enforcement of visa requirements;
Need for consideration of all foreign driving licences;
Registration and compliance with labour laws;
Registration of operators in terms of Section 45 of the National Road Traffic Act;
Review of the Traffic Register Number;
Review of Cross-Border Road Transport Legislation;
Amendment of the National Road Traffic Regulation;
Integrated joint multi-disciplinary law enforcement operations;
Implement driver training programme; and
Consideration of the introduction of operating licences for the industry.
Responding to a question on how the issue of foreign truck drivers will be addressed in the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, Nxesi said this agreement allows for the movement of goods and services, including people, but does not mean the different countries do not have sovereignty.
“The free trade agreement does not mean we are not going to have control of the borders but it does allow the movement of goods and services,” he said.
“The issue we have been talking about is what is illegal from the side of the employers while employing illegal people.”