21 trucks torched in 5 days: SAPS closing in on perpetrators

Police Minister Bheki Cele has assured citizens and truck drivers that those responsible for the torching of trucks in three provinces will be brought to book.

The attack on truck drivers is of national concern and Police Minister Bheki Cele feels they are not random attacks, but rather part of organised crime operations.

Cele was present at a press briefing held at the SAPS Tshwane College this afternoon. Top police officials and provincial police commissioners of the affected provinces were present.

Since Saturday, 21 trucks have been set alight in KZN (nine), Mpumalanga (nine) and Limpopo (three), raising fears of an organised campaign against South Africa.

Progress made

Cele said that a high-level meeting was held with national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Fannie Masemola to address the crisis.

“Intelligence suggests that attacks on trucks may be business-related and we know that these are not just random acts of criminality. Evidence before us points to organised, co-ordinated and sophisticated operations that seek to undermine and sabotage the state,” the minister said.

He added that 12 persons of interest have been identified. Most of the suspects are from KZN and Mpumalanga. Most of the drivers attacked are South African, he said, dismissing any links to xenophobia.

Cele said that in KZN, detectives assigned to the cases are urgently investigating leads and gathering and studying ‘all evidence at their disposal’. In Mpumalanga, the minister explained, strong leads are being pursued, while the attack in Limpopo points to an ‘ongoing labour dispute and service delivery issues in the Lydenburg mining belt’.

Also read: More trucks torched in Mpumalanga

Cele stressed that ‘no targets’ have been put on truck drivers in the Free State and Gauteng.

“In the Free State, on Monday, a truck experienced mechanical failure and caught fire. The driver escaped unharmed. [In] a second incident, a truck capsized and burst into flames. The driver of that vehicle is recovering in hospital.”

The minister added that two incidents involving truck drivers in Gauteng are not related to these attacks. “The provincial commissioner of that province has confirmed that two trucks were involved in two separate accidents. One truck carrying flammable cargo had a burst tyre and capsized and burst into flames while driving on the R59.”

In the second incident, he said a truck driver lost control and the truck overturned and caught alight on the N12.

Both truck drivers were unharmed.

National plan

The minister said that police visibility has been heightened in all provinces and that high-risk routes are ‘secured and regular patrols conducted’.

He said that regardless of the motive, law enforcement remains on high alert and is hard at work to prevent more attacks, while working to find the ‘individuals or gangs of thugs hell-bent on causing havoc on our roads’.

No links to July unrests two years ago

Cele stressed that although this week marks two years since the infamous July 2021 unrest, there is no evidence to suggest that these attacks are linked to the ‘insurrection where 354 people lost their lives as a result of the mayhem’.

He added that the SAPS are working closely with stakeholders to make arrests, and urges motorists and truck drivers to report suspicious people and activities to the police.

‘An act of economic sabotage’ – minister

Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga yesterday lambasted those responsible for the attacks.

“This is criminality that will not be tolerated. These criminals are committing an act of economic sabotage, which must attract the harshest penalties permissible in law. Our road network is the lifeblood of our economy and transports valuable cargo that keeps the wheels of our economy turning,” she stressed.

Chikunga added that over 80% of all the country’s cargo is carried by road.

She explained that government is addressing working conditions in the industry – raised by aggrieved parties – and that ‘progress is being made in addressing the issues on the table’.

KZN MEC pleased

The Witness reported that KZN MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison Sipho Hlomuka has welcomed the decision by the police to assign a high-level crack team to investigate the torching of trucks.

“Sabotaging the economy will result in job losses and unemployment. Efforts led by the police will continue, with the work of monitoring and ensuring visibility on the strategic routes.”

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