By Neelam Rahim
Yesterday, traffic flow was disrupted for hours on two major highways as truck drivers blockaded the N3 near Van Reenen’s Pass while partially blockading the N12 road between Bloemhof and Wolmaranstad in the North West. The protests were allegedly being driven by the All Truck Drivers Forum, who protested, among other things, the rising price of fuel and the hiring of foreign nationals as drivers. Meanwhile, the CEO of the Road Freight Association, Gavin Kelly, has written an open letter in which he implores President Cyril Ramaphosa to act now.
Radio Islam speaks to Gavin Kelly.
What are some reasons behind the truck driver blockades, and who is behind what has been described as sabotage?
Gavin says, “Whenever something like this happens, the parties who start circulating calls for this sought of action on social media which we have seen happening for at least two weeks run-up to this time. Suddenly have all distanced themselves and say ‘We’re just supporting the unhappy drivers’ but it’s quite obvious that it’s the same grouping that has been creating this problem for the last five years. It’s representatives of unemployed drivers and they are really demanding the employment of foreigners in preference to South African citizens been employed by companies by South Africa.”
Gavin says there are two concerns that he addressed in his open letter to the president.
“First, this isn’t something new that suddenly happened on Monday morning and caught us all by surprise. This has been around for a long time, it’s been around at least for five years. As we recall those violent attacks in the KZN area where it initially started. We have seen people seriously injured and we have seen people killed including trucks burnt out and people fearing their lives.”
“The second thing is that, if we allow this to happen, we give the impression to the rest of the world that we can’t resolve minor things that relate to the safety and security and efficient operation of the country. So people will leave us, they will go to other ports. There are many other African countries crying out for investment, we will lose that. We will close down as a country. Those are the two salient points that I have tried to get the president to understand that we need to address.” says Gavin.
Gavin further says, “If we continue down this road we are just going to see any sort of investment and development withdrawn from the country. People will move to the ports around us. We already see it from our own fruit company’s, anybody who exports agriculture are now going to Maputo. Slowly but surely our ports will become a ghost town.”