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By Lunga Simelane


N3 blocks by truck drivers ‘hurt economy’

Toll road blockades can cost jobs, says economist

With truck drivers shutting down and blocking toll routes, the South African economy continues to face abrupt disruptions in its logistics chain.

The N3 road was blocked yesterday for more than 24 hours, causing severe traffic delays.

Chief economist of the Efficient Group Dawie Roodt said protests and road blocks by truck drivers would “without a doubt” undermine economic activity and potentially lead to job losses and more businesses closing.

“We may call it economic sabotage but that is how we do things in South Africa, we undermine and disrupt things,” he said.

Roodt said it was also important to understand the impact of what happened and the context, which was very high levels of unemployment, rising levels of poverty, political instability and rising food and fuel prices.

“This is a toxic mix and a dangerous environment we have found ourselves in SA,” he said.

Roodt noted while it was certainly disruptive with truck drivers blocking national roads, it was clear people were seeking a scapegoat, which was the foreign nationals.

“We have seen this before. While the economy is going through difficult circumstances, a small spark could lead to something ugly and that is my biggest concern,” he said. “We have seen what happened last year in KwaZulu-Natal and these situations show once again we need very strong and decisive political leaders. But, unfortunately, we do not have that.”

With no signs of when such economic attacks will end, the Road Freight Association, in an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, addressed the required need for a sense of urgency with the whole logistics supply chain coming under attack again.

ALSO READ: N3 blocked by truck drivers, motorists urged to use alternate routes

CEO Gavin Kelly said all major routes were being targeted. He said road freight companies found themselves under attack and prevented from plying their business by forces under the pretext of foreign nationals “taking jobs away from citizens”.

“This results in damaged and destroyed lives, companies, employment opportunities, economic activity, goods, vehicles, facilities, roads and loss of foreign investment to move goods through South Africa into Africa,” he said. “The action discriminates against those companies who comply with all the legislated requirements.”

All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF) secretary-general Sifiso Nyathi said the blockade of the N3 toll route and the protests against the employment of foreign truck drivers reflected the issues drivers had for the past five years, where foreign nationals undermined the country, the laws of the country and South African drivers.

Nyathi said the foundation’s grievances were escalated to the heads of various government departments but they were not heard and never received a constructive response.

“We are told they do not know how they will remove them,” he said. “All we want is to be answered and to be hired as South African drivers. First preference should belong to South African citizens.”

Nyathi said all the task teams appointed by the government to resolve the problem produced nothing and were “useless”. He said drivers were tired of heading from “door to door” to protest.

“Authorities are bribed by the very same companies when these protests take place. When they have to attend to the matter, they are bribed with e-wallets,” he said.

KZN police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker said traffic was diverted to alternative routes but the main route remained backed up in both directions.


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