Trucks torched on second day of protest against foreign drivers

08 July 2020 - 13:51 By Aron Hyman, Esa Alexander and Orrin Singh
Two trucks, reportedly carrying goods for supermarkets, were set alight on the N1 highway near Cape Town during protests against the employment of foreigners as truck drivers.
Two trucks, reportedly carrying goods for supermarkets, were set alight on the N1 highway near Cape Town during protests against the employment of foreigners as truck drivers.
Image: Esa Alexander

Two trucks were used to barricade the N1 highway and then set alight during protests by truck drivers on Wednesday.

Bystanders helped themselves to the scorched remains of goods from the trucks..

Goods including bleach, wine bottles and toilet paper littered the road as recovery trucks moved in to remove the horse sections of the trucks by midmorning.

Protests started across the country on Tuesday with several roads being barricaded and trucks burnt or hijacked. The strike is related to unhappiness about the employment of foreigners in the trucking industry.

Two truck drivers were “hijacked” on Cape Town’s roads on Tuesday after strikers brought traffic on the N1 and N7 to a standstill.

Freight truck driver Casper Smit's truck was parked across the N1 highway towards Cape Town on Tuesday afternoon.

Smit said he was forced out of his vehicle by a mob of about 30 people.

Casper Smit with his 'hijacked' truck on Tuesday during a national truck strike over the employment of foreigners.
Casper Smit with his 'hijacked' truck on Tuesday during a national truck strike over the employment of foreigners.
Image: Esa Alexander

“I was waiting for freight with my truck and they came here from the highway’s side. I think they are striking, I don’t know. They took me out of the lorry and took my keys and drove the lorry across the highway just across the Winelands 1 Stop,” he said.

“They asked whether I heard of the strike today, and I said yes, and they said they want my lorry and they took it,” said Smit. “It had to be lorry drivers because they knew how to drive the lorry,” he said.

He said they stole the truck’s cellphone and his wallet before breaking the key off in the ignition.

Police helped to disperse protesters along the N1 highway.

Western Cape police spokesperson Capt FC Van Wyk said police responded to “a possible arson attack” in the early hours of Wednesday morning near the Klipheuwel weighbridge on the N1.

An “investigation into the incident indicates that the drivers of two freight trucks were pulled over by a vehicle with armed men and they were threatened with firearms. Both trucks were carrying products for a chain grocery store,” said Van Wyk.

“They subsequently abandoned the trucks and fled the scene, and the trucks were set alight. A case of malicious damage to property was registered for investigation. The fire was extinguished by the Winelands fire department,” he said.

The motive and cause of the fire is being investigated. The public order policing unit and other law-enforcement agencies are patrolling all highways and byways to monitor the traffic, said Van Wyk.

Cape Town traffic services spokesperson Maxine Jordaan said there were also reports of trucks across the N7 highway between Atlantis and Morningstar.

Former Western Cape ANC elections head and premier Ebrahim Rasool condemned the threats against foreigners through his organisation OneAfrica.Org.

In a press statement, he said a poster circulating, calling for the “mass deportation” of  foreigners, was “naked and crude in its xenophobic hate speech”. He said the poster kept the “threat of violence implicitly hanging in the air”.

It called for “all foreigners” to leave the country by Tuesday night. 

“This is only surpassed by the concrete call by the All Truck Drivers Foundation calling for foreign truck drivers to be robbed of their keys and trucks. Underlying this is the constant threat of attacking businesses owned by other Africans and other foreign nationals,” said Rasool.

“We have seen this movie all too often before, most recently in September 2019, when attacks against other Africans were widespread. What was different then was that Africa’s patience had run dry with SA,” said Rasool.

“For the first time we saw South African missions targeted and SA businesses under threat. Even now, some foreign nationals are threatening retaliation should any attacks materialise. This is a terrible scenario if the threats and counter-threats materialise,” he said.

He called for law enforcement agencies to “act against those who engage in such hate speech and threaten such conflict and lawlessness”.

Blocking the other lanes of the highway next to Smit’s truck was Zimbabwean driver Tendarai Shazinga’s vehicle that was also hijacked.

Sipho Zungu of the All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF) told TimesLIVE on Tuesday that he was aware of calls for a national shutdown, but had “nothing to do with it”. 

“I have seen a statement circulating on Facebook. It was posted by a guy that I don't even know. I have never called for any shutdown. But it is understandable that the drivers are now fed up. We are asking for justice to be done. This has been going on for three years and the government has not responded to us. They say they are making a task team, but there is nothing we have that we can give to the drivers,” he said. 

TimesLIVE was e-mailed a statement claiming that drivers would embark on a national shutdown on Tuesday. 

“South African citizens together with Code 14 qualified truck divers will embark on a national shutdown on Tuesday July 7 2020, fighting against the employment of foreigners in most sectors in SA for a lower wage.

“In Eastern Cape alone, there are more than 500 qualified truck drivers who are unemployed while the industry employs over 90% of foreign truck drivers. The citizens have received support from more than 1,000 truck drivers nationally who will not drive any trucks from July 7 in solidarity with the unemployed.” 

SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) deputy general secretary Anele Kiet distanced the union from any sort of shutdown. 

“It has been our stance before and it is still our stance - all issues pertaining to workers in that industry have a platform to negotiate through the bargaining council. We are a member of the bargaining council and could never be the ones who would walk out of that particular structure to call for a shutdown.” 


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