Protest action and a blockade closed two major national routes – the N3 toll route between Durban and Johannesburg at Van Reenen’s pass, and the N2 in the Southern Cape on Wednesday.
It is suspected that the blockade was caused by truck drivers, apparently protesting against the employment of foreign drivers. The protest action in the Southern Cape was apparently related to electricity supply.
A spokesperson for truck drivers was not immediately available, but SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) spokesperson Zanele Sabela, said the protest action could be related to complaints about the employment of foreign truck drivers at lower salaries than local ones.
This had been raised as a potential source of exploitation by Satawu in the bargaining council for road freight truck drivers because the union feels all truck drivers should earn the same minimum salary of R15 000 a month.
At the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry, it was agreed that a task team would look into the employment of foreign nationals in the industry and these and other issues would be revisited at the next industry meeting on July 4.
The task team was set up in response to the Mooi River blockades in April.
Con Roux, a spokesperson for the N3 Toll Concession Company, said heavy trucks were affected by the blockade the most because they were too heavy to use alternate routes provided.
N2 closed, cleaning operations under way
The N2 linking towns in the Southern Cape, also remained closed while clean-up operations were under way.
On Wednesday morning, protesters in Thembalethu, a suburb that runs alongside the national route through George, blockaded the road.
Regional ANC secretary Major Sokopo told News24 earlier that he believed the protests were related to the cutting off of electricity supply to shacks in Thembalethu.
He said at least three trucks were damaged during the protests. Tyres were also put in the road.
Road blockades condemned
Transport Minister Blade Nzimande has condemned blockades and protests on major routes in South Africa, including the N3 toll route, as “sabotage”.
“Any person who blocks roads conducts a criminal act and will be charged and prosecuted,” said Nzimande in a statement.
Incidents in the country so far this week include:
The blockaded N2 between Mtubatuba and Hluhluwe in northern KwaZulu-Natal;
A blockade using earthmovers, allegedly by Ethekwini Municipal Workers at Springfield Park in Durban;
Burnt tyres and restricted travel between London Road in Alexandra and Marlboro, creating heavy backlogs from the Gillooly’s interchange;
Protesters raising housing issues blocked the R59 near Meyerton, south of Johannesburg;
A blockade on Van Reenen’s Pass between Harrismith and the Tugela Toll Plaza/Ladysmith, causing a tailback of kilometres long;
On Tuesday, the N2 near Cape Town was briefly closed during protesters in nearby Mew Way, near Khayelitsha.
Nzimande urged protesters to use government platforms to raise concerns over service delivery in a non-violent way.
“Any criminal acts, in the form of violence, destruction of state and private property, looting and the blockading of the road under the pretext of service delivery protests, will not be tolerated,” said Nzimande.
He described the blockades as “typical acts of sabotage, disdain and criminality”.
*Article first published by Jenni Evans, News24