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Government fiddles while trucks burn

FESARTA endorses a suggestion by the Road Freight Association (RFA) that perhaps South Africa needs a few “NO TRUCK DAYS” to bring home to authorities the importance of road transport as the lifeline for the survival of the country’s fragile economy

The latest newspaper reports of violence perpetrated by so-called truck-driver associations all around South Africa are further evidence of the disconnect between government and the industries that are battling to keep a declining economy on track.

The shocking statistic from the RFA that 213 truck drivers have been killed in the past year, with an absolutely indifferent response from the authorities, is evidence that the government is too busy playing politics to deal with the real crises facing the industry. The situation is an extension of widespread terrorism in the construction industry, where armed “association” hit men invade sites and threaten workers.

That so much chaos can be caused without a single arrest, is further evidence of the incompetence or corruption that exists in the country’s police force, which appears to have been told not to irritate unions or associations.

Although at least 74 trucks and cargoes worth about R100 million have been burnt over the past three months alone, the attitude of law enforcers seems to be: “Don’t take much notice of the companies involved – the insurers will pay, and it is all tax deductible.”

In most other countries, the police and army would have been deployed instantly and would be out in force to stop this outrageous behaviour, but, instead, we have an “inter-ministerial task team”, which will no doubt meet occasionally to discuss the topic.

This is an unsuitable response to sheer anarchy and bloodshed, and the decision to “investigate” the issue of foreign driver employment is a slap in the face for the embattled transport industry, which suffers from incompetence and corruption in the South African driver training and testing system.

The fact that eight out of ten people who apply for employment as truck drivers – using valid or bought South African licences – cannot drive a modern, heavy vehicle, has been long reported but totally ignored, while we have a Seta-based Transport Education Authority with bloated funding and no useful action to resolve the issues.

The situation in South Africa mirrors recent chaos in countries to the north, when drivers refused to cross between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, due to the possibility of being killed by criminals, police or the army. The situation virtually paralysed the economies of both countries.

The South African situation is very likely to escalate into regional chaos as Fesarta has received a communication that Zimbabwean, Zambian and other national truck-driver associations intend to retaliate by targeting and eliminating South African drivers who attempt to cross into their countries.

Fesarta endorses the suggestion by the RFA that perhaps we need a few No Truck Days in South Africa to bring home to authorities the importance of road transport as the lifeline for the survival of our fragile economy.

Although such a decision would paralyse the ports of Durban and Cape Town and cause a total crisis for fuel and industrial supplies, it might ring an alarm bell in some inner recess of government and stir into action one of the ten transient transport ministers, who, without addressing problems, have occasionally occupied the position over the past 20 years.

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is one of the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publications in southern Africa.

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