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Xenophobia in South Africa is deplorable as the Road Freight Association has reported over 200 foreign truck drivers have been killed since March 2018.
It is inhumane to note the attackers are drivers from the All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF). In response, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said that the root cause of the crisis is the “oversupply of foreign drivers in the industry and that some of the drivers are undocumented.”
Recollecting details of the stabbing of Zimbabwean Tinei Takawira, another Zimbabwean said “A group of men, about 20, stood in the middle of the road in Witbank and forced me to stop my truck. They demanded to see my license, shouting that all foreign drivers must fall.”. A Zambian said “… When the men stopped me, there were police trucks parked nearby, and the police officers watched, but they did not come to my assistance”. A Malawian added that the men stopped him and demanded that he hand over the truck keys or die on the spot…”. Another Malawian sustained serious facial injuries, including a broken jaw, split lips, and a broken nose and was dismissed after the incident under negligence. A Zimbabwean asleep in his truck suffered from severe injuries after a gasoline bomb was thrown at his truck, setting it on fire.
Human Rights Watch’s findings in Johannesburg, Mpumalanga province’s Witbank town, and Durban and Pietermaritzburg, both in KwaZulu-Natal province confirmed some 18 out of 23 foreign drivers had legal South African work permits.
It is inappropriate for Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to simply indicate awareness but not provide an action plan to increase protection for foreign drivers. Police Minister Bheki Cele claims 91 alleged attackers have been arrested, “We will let the law take its course because we cannot negotiate on such acts of criminality,” but they have not been.
A South African truck association, Positive Freight Solutions Forum has recorded 75 incidents. On May 31, PFSF sought an injunction from the Pietermaritzburg High Court against the ATDF. However, ATDF’s lawyer, Zwe Luthuli, denied the association’s involvement in the attacks.
One local truck driver told HRW that targeting trucks alone was not enough because some companies had insurance and could get new trucks, hence the need to directly attack and burn foreign truck drivers.
Local drivers sang disparaged songs referring to foreign truck drivers as Makwerekwere(a derogatory term that references the accent of African foreign nationals)at a rally. Some displayed ATDF banners that said, “Foreign Drivers Must Fall.”
Dismissed drivers did not receive advance notice, compensation, or an explanation for their dismissal. Others said that companies, including in Durban and Johannesburg, have posted signs indicating that they have no jobs for foreign nationals.
Organizing Secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Truck Drivers Association Edward Muchatuta confirmed they are providing legal support to 39 foreign truck drivers who were dismissed by Cape Town-based TimeLink Cargo on May 22.
Southern Africa Human Rights Watch Director, Dewa Mavhinga said “South African authorities should urgently intervene to stop the unlawful, unprovoked, and violent attacks and harassment of foreign truck drivers and bring the perpetrators to justice. Any problems in the trucking industry, including undocumented drivers, are for the relevant authorities to address, and there is no defense for committing such violent, horrific crimes.” South Africa needs to promulgate policies that provide security and safety for foreigners.