Truckers protesting against the hiring of foreign nationals as drivers blocked key routes to Durban – South Africa’s biggest port – and commercial hub of Johannesburg, prompting a body representing the nation’s road freight industry to seek President Cyril Ramaphosa’s intervention to find a solution to repeated closures of arterial roads.
Similar blockades took place on several national routes last year that led Ramaphosa to instruct a panel headed by Employment and Labor Minister Thulas Nxesi to address the All Truck Drivers Foundation’s long-standing grievances that include the employment of foreign drivers and issues relating to professional driving permits.
Blockages also took place on the N3 route near the Roadside and Reitz interchange, between Warden and Villiers in the central Free State province earlier this week.
South Africa’s Road Freight Association in an open letter to Ramaphosa on Thursday said the N3 has been obstructed for more than 24 hours with over 350 trucks on either direction of the route.
“Our drivers are exposed to severe cold, possible violent looting or other aggravated assault and do not have the means to survive for days stranded in a truck in the middle of nowhere,” the association’s CEO Gavin Kelly said.
He called on Ramaphosa to instruct the ministers of police, transport and defense and military veterans to restore order and address the concerns of the body.
The highway’s link to the Port of Durban is also key to shippers from many African countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The frequent challenges on key routes mean “we will lose trade and business to and through South Africa,” Kelly said. “Our ports will become ghost towns – and the surrounding businesses relating to those activities of trade and support will close. More unemployment.”
The body estimates that the repeated disruptions may have cost the economy around R300 million rand.