The frequency and ferocity of attacks on foreign truck drivers in South Africa has increased in recent months
The frequency and ferocity of attacks on foreign truck drivers in South Africa has increased in recent months. Trucks have been used to block roads to allow protestors to identify the nationality of drivers; trucks have been vandalised and set on fire; and their drivers have been assaulted.
NGO Human Rights Watch has documented numerous incidents, while research by the Road Freight Association found that more than 200 truck drivers – mostly foreign – have been killed in attacks since March 2018.
There have been waves of attacks on foreign people in South Africa over the past 15 years, with the army deployed on some occasions. The attacks are linked to high levels of xenophobia in the country, but truck drivers in particular have been targeted, perhaps because they are often isolated and there is a perception among some that they are taking South African jobs when the country has very high unemployment. The protestors claim that many foreign drivers do not have valid permits, but Human Rights Watch found that the majority that they interviewed did.
Police reinforcements have been deployed in the worst-hit areas in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces and 444 arrests have been made. The All Truck Drivers Foundation, an association of South African truck drivers, has been taken to court over allegations that it is involved in the attacks, although the organisation has denied this. Other Southern African governments have warned drivers that it could be too dangerous to drive into South Africa.
Speaking in early September, the chairman of the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport, Mosebenzi Zwane, said: “Transport is the backbone of our economy; safety on the roads ought to be guaranteed at all times. All stakeholders in the transport industry must come together to resolve the crisis.”
Responding to claims that some politicians have encouraged a xenophobic atmosphere, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “I am calling upon each one of us to desist from fuelling a climate of fear and confusion.”