By Enrico Madua-Mnoko
JOHANNESBURG: The South African Truck Drivers Association (SATDA) has embarked on a one-day nationwide strike demanding that all trucking businesses in South Africa must fire all foreign drivers. The association is also demanding that foreign truck drivers must not be allowed to work in South Africa effective yesterday.
During yesterday’s demonstrations in most of the eleven provinces in South Africa, several foreign truck drivers, mostly Zimbabweans, said they were beaten and had their trucks burnt by members of the SATDA and All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF) who were demanding that they return to their home countries.
One of the drivers, who refused to be named, said he fled and abandoned his truck after SATDA members were about to attack him. Other foreign drivers said they were lucky to have escaped unhurt after tip-offs about impending attacks.
Johannesburg Metro police department spokesperson Wayne Minnaar, said some trucks were blocking the M2 highway but no incidents of violence were reported. But in some places, the demonstrations have caused disruptions at most depots of SA power utility company, ESKOM.
The company which is the largest employer of companies in the trucking business, temporarily closed all its depots yesterday.
A document released by the company’s Free Carrier Agreement (FCA) Service Manager, Mrs Susan Mabena, says this was done to protect the company and its contractors.
Zimbabwe All Truck Driver’s spokesperson, Wellington Manyonda, said he was concerned about the ongoing harassment of foreigners from Zimbabwe by South African citizens.
“We are no longer going to tolerate the harassment and killings of our innocent members. However, we are happy that members of the security cluster are aware of this strike and we are confident that they will do everything possible to maintain peace and order,” said Manyonda.
Advocate Gabriel Shumba, Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum ZEF chapter in South Africa, said he was well aware of this strike and is concerned that this would live many people injured and their goods destroyed.
He said he is surprised that while most countries were uniting in fighting the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, South Africans were busy taking the law into their own hands to harass other nationals. He appealed to South African President Cyril Ramaposa, as the current chairman of the African Union and the Sadc organisation, to intervene.
During the time these demonstration were taking place, South Africa’s departments of Home Affairs, Transport, Labour, SATDA and ATDF were holding an emergency meeting on how to find peace. No details of the meeting were released.
Another member of Zimbabwe All Truck Drivers, George Manyika, said the call by SATDA and ATDF organisations to discriminate against foreigners was illegal since most of these truck drivers had documents which entitled them to work and live in South Africa. Efforts to get a comment from ATDF spokesperson, Michael Masimini were fruitless.
Dennis Juru, of the International Truck Drivers Union, (ITU), said its was unfair for South African citizens to treat other nationals in the manner they were doing.
He said there are many South African citizens who were also working in other countries in Europe and the USA as drivers, but they were not experiencing similar treatment being meted on foreign nationals in South Africa.
In another development, at least about 50 Zimbabwean truck drivers working for Sena Trucking, a logistics company in Alrode, east of Johannesburg, have been informed that they will be retrenched due to Covid-19. A letter released and given to the workers by the owner, states that the company did not make any profits during the past three months of lock-down neither did it receive any financial assistance from the government.
Manyonda said he was very concerned about this development, and he appealed to the Zimbabwean government to find ways of assisting all those who are likely to be affected by such a development.