Chaos is brewing in Gauteng as the truck industry threatens a national road closure if truck drivers’ demands are not met.
It was uncertain whether tensions would escalate after Employment and Labor Minister Thulas Nxesi submitted the National Labor Migration Policy and the Amending Employment Services Act for public comment on Monday.
The bill introduces quotas for the number of documented aliens with a work visa who can be employed in agriculture, construction, hospitality and tourism, among other things. Last weekend, the All Truck Drivers Forum and Allied SA called for a national shutdown over the censure of foreign truck drivers.
The Secretary-General, Sifiso Nyathi, said truck drivers associated with the forum had marched to the National Bargaining Council over the weekend to submit a memorandum of demands. Nyathi said the problems had been increasing since 2018. The forum called on the government to remove foreign truck drivers from road haulage with immediate effect and for a 15% pay increase for local truck drivers.
Other requirements included drivers without a valid work permit to be removed from trucks and all trucks registered in South Africa must be driven by South Africans only.
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Deon George, shadow deputy treasury secretary of the Democratic Alliance, said the economy could not afford such a move. “It will increase the cost of goods for everyone, harm the poorest and drive inflation further,” he said. George said it was clearly xenophobic and driven by a narrow parochial interest.
“We are already having supply chain issues. This makes that even worse at a time when we can least afford it,” he said.
Economist Piet Croucamp said the forum was not protecting the interests of independent truck drivers, but that it is “more like a protection racket”.
“There are foreign drivers in South Africa, but that’s not a problem; they want to force employers to join them at high fees,” he said.
The protests had put pressure on the logistics and transport sector, he said.