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Earlier this week, popular roads and highways came to a complete halt due to truck drivers blocking certain highways and roads.
On Monday, October 25th, 2021, truckers and small truck drivers halted the N9 and N10 near Middleburg, Eastern Cape. On Tuesday, October 26th, 2021, more truckers blocked the N3 near Montrose. The impact of the incident on Tuesday was so severe that sections of the N11 were closed, and the Dundee offramp heading towards Ladysmith was also shut.
However, the RTI and SAPS attempted to divert northbound traffic (travelling towards Gauteng) at the Bergville Interchange. A diversion and turnaround were also implemented at Frere Interchange.
This follows organised protests by outraged truck drivers demanding that freight companies must not employ foreign nationals over South African citizens.
As the holiday season approaches, vacationers are concerned that further protest action will disrupt their plans. This is a reality that must be considered and addressed.
The truckers have assured more protest action if Gov does not meet their demands. However, the government guarantees that they are working on the issue.
Fikile Mbalula, Minister of Transport, explains, “We have therefore made a firm commitment to address these matters in a manner that ensures sustainability of our interventions. Some of these interventions may require a longer runway as these may require legislative amendments.”
On Monday, the Minister met with protesting truck drivers and small truck operators who had blockaded the N9 and N10 highways, along with Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi.
“From the engagements, the issue of employment of foreign nationals featured strongly in their demands. We have equally taken note of the allegation that the employers take advantage of the lack of clarity in our regulations insofar as this relates to foreign nationals making use of Professional Driving Permits issued in their respective countries to drive in South Africa,” the Minister said during a media briefing in Midrand.
Mbalula mentioned the blockade on the N3 near Montrose, where truck drivers demanded similar terms.
“In recent days we have witnessed truck drivers blockading national roads making demands which range from their conditions of service, employment of foreign nationals and issues relating to professional driving permits.”
He says that President Ramaphosa has tasked an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) led by Minister Nxesi to address the concerns raised by truck drivers and small truck operators. This IMC appears to have been working hard to address these issues, with several stakeholder consultations.
While the government has implemented long-term interventions, numerous commitments have been made to stop the illegal behaviour. “In April 2021, we published an amendment to the Road Traffic Act Regulations, which incorporates a provision that a Professional Driving Permit issued by a foreign country will only be applicable to a vehicle registered in that country,” the Minister highlighted.
Minister Mbalula explains that a foreign national will not be permitted to drive a South African-registered truck once this Regulation takes effect while holding a foreign Professional Driving Permit.
“The amendments to the Regulations are now before Parliament for comment as required by law, and we anticipate to publish amended regulations by the end of November 2021,” the Minister said.
The government has committed to enhancing joint law enforcement operations between the South African Police Service (SAPS), the Department of Labour and Employment, the Department of Home Affairs and the Road Traffic Management Corporation.
Furthermore, the process of validating and verifying immigration documents, work permits, and foreign driver’s licences will be improved.
A synchronised process between countries is proposed for driver’s licences. This will ensure that operators are treated equally in both the dispatching and receiving countries.
The National Road Traffic Act necessitates the use of an operating permit or card for foreign operators.
The Minister explains that the rationale for such a provision is to allow the government to manage situations in which an operator does not comply with South African laws. These cards will have a one-year validity period, and failure to comply with relevant laws will result in the operator’s deregistration.
“I must hasten to thank the drivers for the peaceful manner in which they conducted their protests. We have invited their leaders to sit around the table in order for them to have a better appreciation of the measures we are putting in place in addressing their demands.”Fikile Mbalula, Minister of Transport
He reaffirmed the government’s commitment to ensuring that the interventions, which have a similar impact on other sectors, are given the necessary impetus within the confines of the law.
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