The Mercury

Zambia warns truckers to avoid major SA routes during strike Monday

- SE-ANNE RALL se-anne.rall@inl.co.za

THE Zambian government has issued a travel advisory, warning its truck drivers to avoid travelling on South Africa’s major routes on Monday.

This has prompted an economist to say the government needed to deal with the issues of truck violence on the N2 and N3 if South Africa wanted to firmly position itself as the gateway to Africa.

According to a message that has been widely shared on social media, drivers are warned that a national truckers’ strike has been planned for September 2.

The message states: “Just a heads up. The truck drivers are planning a national strike starting on September 2. Keep in mind that the supermarke­ts, fuel supplies rely on deliveries by trucks. If this materialis­es and it becomes an extended strike, we might be in for serious shortages. Are you prepared?”

Zambian high commission spokespers­on Naomi Nyawali said they had received reports from drivers who have been threatened with violence ahead of the planned nationwide work stoppage.

“Some Zambian truck drivers have faced physical attacks and threats from their South African counterpar­ts, who are fighting for better conditions from their employers,” she said.

Nyawali said they had warned drivers who would be entering or working in South Africa on September 2 to park their trucks in safe designated places.

Professor Jannie Rossouw of the Wits School of Economics said the ongoing attacks, targeting foreign drivers, had a devastatin­g impact.

“It disrupts the economy at different levels and impacts on deliveries, which increases costs in the economy. It also impacts on other people, who are not truck drivers but who will not be allowed to reach their destinatio­ns,” he said.

Rossouw said South Africa wanted to be the gateway to Africa and specifical­ly, to Southern Africa and the Southern African Developmen­t Community, so it was natural for the drivers not to be from this country. He said if other countries pulled their drivers from travelling SA roads, it would push the country further down the negative growth spiral.

Chief executive of the Road Freight Associatio­n, Gavin Kelly, said they were aware of the message. “All you can do is to warn drivers about the threat. Operators who can afford to reschedule travel will be able to do so. We are warning drivers to exercise caution,” he said.

Kelly said he did not want to create panic.

Spokespers­on for the Department of Transport, Community Safety and Liaison in KwaZulu-Natal, Kwanele Ncalane, said while they acknowledg­ed that people had a right to protest, they would not tolerate any disruption­s that would impact on other road users.

“We have taken a harsh stance on those who operate outside the law. Police will act accordingl­y if there are those who seek to barricade the roads,” he said.

All Truck Drivers Foundation leader Sipho Zungu said he had heard about the message but did not know where it came from.

Last week, a Zimbabwean truck driver was shot while travelling on the N2, between Murchison and Paddock, on the KZN south coast. His truck was then set alight.

Thirty-seven-year-old Charles Ntini managed to crawl out of the truck and died at the side of the road.

Police spokespers­on Colonel Thembeka Mbele said Ntini had sustained bullet wounds in the left arm and chest, and had burn injuries to his body. He was declared dead at the scene.

The matter was transferre­d to the Provincial Task Team for further investigat­ion.

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