A DOZEN South African truck drivers have been arrested for blocking the N3 Highway between Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, disrupting traffic on the major road during a protest against the employment of Zimbabwean drivers on Friday.
It is alleged that the failure by the South African government to provide feedback on the employment of foreign drivers, including Zimbabweans, resulted in the protest.
The highway was fully re-opened early on Saturday after the truckers barricaded the toll route from 3am on Friday.
Reports from South Africa said the blockage caused major disruptions at Van Reenen’s Pass.
On Sunday, media reports quoted police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker saying 12 truck drivers, who used their haulage vehicles to obstruct the flow of traffic and defied instructions by police to remove their trucks, had been arrested.
They appeared at the Ladysmith Magistrates Court on Monday facing charges of contravening the Criminal Law Amendment Act and the Road Traffic Act.
During the protest, Naicker said numerous truck drivers parked their trucks across the N3 freeway, blocking both carriageways.
“They then alighted from their vehicles causing traffic to come to a standstill for the entire day,” he said.
“The suspects removed keys of some of the trucks, rendering them immovable for a long period of time.”
Law enforcement officials from various entities cleared the blockade.
South African truck drivers have, in the recent past, taken to industrial action to register their displeasure at the employment of foreign drivers in the continent’s largest economy.
Last month, the South African government said it would crack down on foreign drivers that were working illegally in that country, adding that it could change legislation to make it tougher for non-South African workers in the sector.
South Africa’s Employment and Labour, Police and Home Affairs departments also released a joint statement committing “to speed up” policy changes with regards to road freight issues after widespread protests by truck owners and drivers.
The departments committed to increase action against undocumented migrants working in the transport sector, “as well as those who arrive in the country as visitors but end up taking employment, which is prohibited”.
They planned a joint inspection to address non-compliance in the freight sector, with road traffic authorities and the police playing a “much more active role”.
On the other hand, South African transport operators prefer foreign drivers with whom they often negotiate lower salaries.
Five months ago, violence and looting swept across parts of South Africa during a similar demonstration, whose flashpoints were the N3 Highway between Johannesburg and Durban through which the bulk of goods destined for the region pass.