South Africa, Durban – FOREIGN truck drivers have threatened that if they are forced out of their jobs, their local counterparts will be banned from crossing their borders.
The threat to retaliate was made by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Crossborder Drivers Association yesterday after protest action by local drivers.
The protest action came after more than 30 trucks had been torched in provinces across the country since last week.
While it has been alleged that the arson attacks may be linked to the protests, the All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF) has denied any involvement in the incidents.
On Monday, the ATDF issued an ultimatum for all foreign truck drivers to vacate their jobs by December 1 or companies they work for would be prohibited from operating.
Responding to the protest and truck attacks, the secretary-general of the SADC Crossborder Drivers Association, Tatenda Mehlomakhulu, said a ban would be imposed on all South African-registered trucks outside South Africa’s borders.
“We believe the ANC government has a hand in the attacks since they can only arrest undocumented foreigners, but murderers, arsonists, rapists, and terrorists walk free,” he said.
South Africans would have to find other means to service their markets outside South Africa’s borders, he said, adding that most trucks in the country were owned by foreigners.
“It is convenient to register their trucks here as it is the epicentre of the transit cargo and manufacturing industries,” said Mehlomakhulu.
He said the ATDF was violating the rights of foreign transporters by disputing the hiring of foreign nationals.
“If the worst comes to the worst we as SADC Truck Drivers Association will not allow South African registered trucks in our countries,” he said.
ATDF general secretary Sifiso Nyathi said the union believed the average number of foreign truck drivers employed in South Africa was more than 80%, while only a few were South African.
Nyathi said the basic salary earned by drivers was R12 500 a month, based on a nine-hour daily shift.
“Drivers could earn from R20 000 to R40 000 and most not less than R25 000.”
Nyathi alleged that instead of companies employing drivers with the proper documentation, they employed three or four undocumented foreign nationals for the same amount it would cost to employ one person.
Economist Mike Schussler described the situation as a mess, saying it would destroy the region’s economy.
Transport, whether by land, air or sea is by its nature international and South Africa was very dependent on road transport, he said.
Schussler warned that if South Africans killed foreign drivers then there would be consequences for local drivers in other African countries.