Truckers protesting against the hiring of foreign nationals as drivers blocked a key route to South Africa’s biggest port on Wednesday, prompting a body representing the nation’s road freight industry to seek President Cyril Ramaphosa’s intervention to find a solution to repeated closures of arterial roads.
All lanes of traffic on the N3 highway are closed near Van Reenen in the KwaZulu-Natal province, according to the N3 Toll Concession, which manages the route.
Similar blockades took place on several national routes last year that led Ramaphosa to instruct a panel led by Employment and Labor Minister Thulas Nxesi to address the All Truck Drivers Foundation’s long-standing grievances that include the employment of foreign drivers and issues relating to professional driving permits.
South Africa’s Road Freight Association in an open letter to Ramaphosa said the N3 has been blocked for more than 24 hours with over 350 trucks blocked on either direction of the route. “Our drivers 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 association’s Chief Executive Officer Gavin Kelly said.
He called on Ramaphosa to instruct the ministers of police, transport and defense and military veterans to restore order and address the concerns of the body.
The highway’s link to Durban port is also key to shippers from many African countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The frequent challenges on key routes mean “we will lose trade and business to and through South Africa,” Kelly said. “Our ports will become ghost towns — and the surrounding businesses relating to those activities of trade and support will close. More unemployment.”
The body estimates that the repeated disruptions may have cost the economy around 300 million rand ($18.8 million)
10h31 16/06 #TrafficAlert: #Obstruction on #VanReenenPass due to trucks blocking the road in both directions. #TugelaPlaza is CLOSED to #Northbound traffic. #JhbBound traffic diverted off the N3 at Colenso/Frere Interchange. Please delay travel to the area.
— N3 Toll Concession (@N3Route) June 16, 2022