The Road and Freight Inter-Ministerial Committee has issued a stern warning to employers who continue to employ illegal foreign nationals in the freight industry.
The committee held a media briefing on Monday following a lengthy meeting held on Sunday regarding the ongoing truck blockades.
The briefing was led by the minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxeli, who was accompanied by minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, minister of Police, Bheki Cele, minister for Transport Fikile Mbalula and various trucking industry representatives.
The present meeting comes after local truck drivers, led by All Truck Drivers Forum and Allied South Africa (ATDFASA), blocked the N3 highway near Van Reenen’s Pass in KwaZulu-Natal last week.
The truck drivers accuse truck owners of employing foreign nationals in preference to employing unemployed local drivers.
Implementation plan drafted
The freight industry said they endured over R300 million worth of damage and negative costs to the economy due to the ongoing closure of national routes. Briefing the media on the outcome of the meeting, Nxesi said the committee drafted an implementation plan which entails the enforcement of visa requirements, integrated and multi-disciplinary joint law enforcement, review of cross-border road transport legislation and review of the traffic register number (TRN).
Nxesi urged all stakeholders to distance themselves from the violence and blockades that are obstructing roads, as these have dire consequences on the economy.
“It is now incumbent upon leaders of ATDF and others to ensure that their members adhere to the spirit of this compact and work tirelessly towards its implementation. The government will not tolerate any road blockades and the full might of the law will take effect without fear or favour,” said Nxesi.
Nxesi said the inspections and law enforcement operations have found that truck driving was an abundant skill in South Africa and therefore not a scarce skill as purported by some operators.
Mbalula said they have agreed with various stakeholders to distance themselves from road blockades and they will also meet every month to evaluate the progress of the action plan.
“We can’t afford for any of our people to be on the streets. At the same time, we can never accept that our people [are unemployed despite] the skills they have. Driving a truck is not a scarce skill.
“Those who are involved, especially the [operators], are warned that you’re on the wrong side of the law and we are going to act,” said Mbalula.
RFA in full support
Gavin Kelly, chief executive officer of the Road Freight Association said they support all efforts to stop the disruption of the logistics chain.
“The RFA calls on the various authorities tasked with registration, confirmation of compliance and the monitoring of adherence to the conditions of employment prescribed for the road freight sector, to apply themselves urgently to their tasks.
“This will resolve the base causes for the protests [by halting] the employment of illegal (without work visas) foreigners,” said Kelly.