N3 blocked as Eastern Cape trucker protest eases, government to check foreign drivers for papers

Protesting truck drivers form a blockade on the N10 near Middelburg in the Eastern Cape at the weekend.
Protesting truck drivers form a blockade on the N10 near Middelburg in the Eastern Cape at the weekend.
Image: Eastern Cape transport department via Facebook

A protest by truckers in the Eastern Cape is easing, but protest action by truck drivers is continuing on the N3 on Tuesday.

The N3 Toll Concession said the road near Montrose remains closed. All Johannesburg-bound traffic is being diverted at Bergville.

Cars are being diverted at Frere to Ladysmith via the R103, with motorists urged to exercise caution. Heavy vehicles are also being turned around at Frere.

Traffic backlogs are reported between Van Reenen and Harrismith.

The Road Freight Association (RFA) has called on the ministers of police and transport to use their teams to ensure public roads remain open and free for use for all citizens, including the vehicles operated by freight and logistics companies.

RFA CEO Gavin Kelly said: “The continual attack on the logistics supply chain, and the wilful disregard by sectors who continue to drive agendas outside the collective bargaining structure, or to further their grievances by attacking the law-abiding citizenry, must be brought to a stop – immediately.

“Transporters (freight operators) who abide by the collective agreement signed with the representatives of truck drivers (unions) are targeted time and again without reason. This must stop now.”

The National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry recently said it was liaising with employers on an audit on the employment of foreign drivers. Their findings would be reported to the council by March, to be presented to government for inspection and enforcement.

Last year, the council debunked claims by protesters that most drivers are foreign. 

Bargaining council spokesperson Fikile Mchunu told TimesLIVE the companies it represented employed 44,021 SA drivers and 6,756 foreigners.

“The issue of the employment of foreign nationals involves amendments to [legislation] which [the bargaining council] has no jurisdiction over. We have, however, been working with the departments of home affairs and employment and labour to assist with aligning [legislation],” said Mchunu.

The Eastern Cape protest blockade, which began in Middelburg on Sunday, particularly affected trucks transporting manganese destined for international markets from Kuruman in the Northern Cape to the harbour at Gqeberha. They were protesting against the employment of foreign nationals in the sector.  

After talks on Monday with transport minister Fikile Mbalula and labour minister Thulas Nxesi, the protesters began to disperse on Tuesday morning, the provincial government said.

Mbalula said: “We are pleased the road has been cleared to allow free passage of freight on this important artery road which contributes immensely to our economy. We are committed to ensuring the interventions we had previously agreed to, which affect other sectors in a similar manner, will be given the necessary impetus within the confines of the law.” 

Visiting the protesters, Mbalula and Nxesi were joined by Eastern Cape MEC for transport and community safety Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe and the mayor of Inxuba Yethemba municipality, Noncedo Zonke.

The ministers accepted the memorandum of demands, which they said “entails legitimate demands that affect workers in the sector negatively”.

According to a joint statement by the departments of transport and labour: “The engagements with the protesting drivers and operators acknowledged the employment of foreign nationals affects job opportunities for the citizens of SA and that all the parties, being government, truck drivers and small truck operators, are committed to a lasting solution within the ambit of the law.”

The following agreement was reached between government, drivers and small truck operators:

  • Truck drivers and small truck operators will set up a small technical team that will engage with the government on the issues.  
  • The technical team will report within seven working days from the date of signature. The process will commence on October 26.
  • A NatJoints communiqué will be issued by midnight directing deployment of multidisciplinary law enforcement teams to enforce compliance of the law and ensure foreign operators driving trucks have the requisite papers and meet all the requirements of the law. Such deployment will be activated as soon as possible.
  • On signature of the agreement, the blockade of the roads will be lifted. 

Mbalula thanked the drivers for the peaceful manner in which they conducted their protest and for honouring the agreement to clear the blockade on the road within the agreed timeframe.

TimesLIVE


Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.