South Africans watched for the umpteenth time this week how the N3 got blocked by protesting truck drivers. With this major artery from the Durban port now regularly the target of protesters, Gavin Kelly, chief executive officer of the Road Freight Association, penned a desperate letter to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. He pleads with the national government to end the disruption. This is his letter.
The whole logistics supply chain is under attack. Again. All major routes are being targeted. Road freight companies find themselves being targeted, attacked and prevented from plying their business by forces under the pretext of foreign nationals “taking jobs away from citizens”. This results in damaged and totally destroyed lives, companies, employment opportunities, economic activity, goods, vehicles, facilities, roads and foreign investment to move goods through South Africa into Africa.
The action discriminates against those companies who comply with all the legislated requirements, or even come from foreign countries – whilst our calls for action against those companies who continue to break the laws, employ foreigners without the correct authorisations and refuse to register or submit to the inspections done by the department of employment and labour, continue to operate and create the position we, as a country, find ourselves in.
The N3 has been blocked for more than 24 hours. There are over 350 trucks blocked on either direction of the N3 (this number continually growing by the hour). Our drivers (and other staff on the trucks) are exposed to severe cold, possible violent looting or other aggravated assault and do not have the means to survive for days, stranded in a truck in the middle of nowhere.
The N3 route links one of the busiest ports in Africa to many countries that rely on a well-functioning, safe and efficient corridor. Much cargo travels and traverses this route.
Other vital routes – from Mpumalanga across the country to the Northern Cape – the N17, N11, N2, R59, R74 – the list goes on – have experienced similar events and delays. This cannot continue.
Dire consequences for the economy
The economic impact – initially felt and carried or absorbed by all the transporters stuck on the various routes – is not only enormous (we have already lost around R25 million in truck-operating costs), but will cripple many of our smaller operators (88% of our members are SMMEs), will have knock-on effects into all other industry sectors (from manufacturing to retail), will result in penalties for late delivery, damaged goods, contract breach and even loss of business and thereby unemployment.
Ships will sail past to other ports – they will not wait for us to “get our act together”. We will lose trade and business to and through South Africa. Our ports will become ghost towns – and the surrounding businesses relating to those activities of trade and support will close. More unemployment.
When you add up all the damage and negative costs into the economy, we are well around R300 million already.
Mr President, what is this really about? Other than the economic sabotage and total destruction of South Africa, there is obvious intent to prove that the control of the country (and its economy) now rests with gangs?
The leadership of the All Truck Drivers Forum and Allied South Africa (ATDF-SA), specifically the president of the organisation, has openly commented on social media that they do not care about the effects of their actions and that they will continue until there is change. Why have the various departments tasked with solving this issue (almost five years ago now) NOT dealt with the core reasons and addressed these?
You and your ministers promised to defend the country. To protect its people and to ensure a better life for all. You have broken that trust.
Act now – or we will have no country left.
No place to educate and grow our children.
‘We can no longer afford inaction’
Mr President, instruct the ministers of police, transport and defence and military veterans to perform their duties – to restore order and to listen to the proposals made by the representative, compliant transporters within the sector. The non-compliant transporters and the groupings that “represent” them must be dealt with.
The time is now.
End the sabotage of the country and its economy by the ATDF-SA and their allies. Clear the routes. Arrest those drivers complicit with this activity. Deal with the organisers of this sabotage, criminal activity and organised crime. Get the logistics corridors open.
Ensure the rule of law and the right to free movement and the operation of economic activity.
If you do not do this now, South Africa will close down. It will stop. Trade and business will go elsewhere.
We need to protect every citizen’s constitutional right to safety, security and the ability to live and work without hinderance (subject to them respecting and abiding by the very same Constitution and the various legislative requirements of the country).
On behalf of all our citizens, the Road Freight Association asks you to instruct your cabinet to act now. Act decisively.
Mr President, we look towards your leadership.
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