SATAWU Reaction on Acts of Violence in the Road Freight Sector

The South Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) condemns the continued hijacking and burning of trucks in different parts of the country. The attack on the road freight industry has had detrimental effects on the South African economy and the livelihoods of the working-class. Mainstream discourse has linked these manifestations to acts of criminality and xenophobia. These two independent and dependent variables represent a wider web of social and economic injustices that have shaped South Africa’s political economy.

When we juxtapose the burning of trucks with service delivery protests we realise that these acts of countervailing action against the state and owners of production are in reality an expression of real suffering. Though it cannot be determined at this interval in time, we can only presuppose that the current acts of violence are a response to the retrenchments connected with the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown regulations.

In attempting to mitigate the pandemic, a multiplicity of companies in the road freight sector have resorted to laying off a great number of workers. Decisions of this nature will inevitably perpetuate existing social ills of poverty, unemployment and inequalities. The aforementioned factors can directly be linked to acts of violence and social degeneration ranging from xenophobia, gender-based violence, alcohol and drug abuse and productive sabotage (vandalism and burning of property- state or privately owned).

As lazy as this recommendation might be perceived, the union calls on the government to arrest all individuals involved in the chaos within the road freight sector. We equally condemn with all the contempt it deserves, the grievous bodily harm, emotional abuse, psychological trauma and loss of lives resulting from the ensuing protests. We further call on South Africa’s intelligence to investigate the factors that give rise to atrocious acts of violence. The outcomes of the investigation may demystify the narrative which suggests that the spontaneous acts of human rights violation are triggered by growing xenophobia against immigrants. This narrative is too simplistic and fails to analyse the negative impact it may have on trade relations between South Africa and the rest of the African continent.

The acts of violence in the road freight industry are not isolated but historical. We are disappointed in the snail-paced and/or non-existent intervention efforts by various government departments ranging from Labour, Home Affairs, Transport and Police. SATAWU requested intervention from the said government departments since 2018. Accordingly, we expect the Department of Employment and Labour to penalise companies that employ undocumented drivers. The Department of Home Affairs should strengthen its vetting system to identify, trace and apprehend all drivers using fraudulent Identity Documents (IDs). The Department of Transport working with the Department of Police should arrest officials that sell fake licences to the drivers in question. Furthermore, employers that contribute to road carnage through the employment of foreign drivers should face the full might of the law. The combination of these factors demonstrates that unemployment in South Africa is structural and deliberate in nature as opposed to the account of scare skills. Similarly, SATAWU opposes the view that suggests that driving a truck and possessing a code 14 driver’s license is a scarce skill.

Employers located in the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight & Logistics Industry (NBCRFLI) will be requested to discourage acts that seek to undermine the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. This demand should also resonate with fly by night companies that prey on the precarity of undocumented drivers in general and the vulnerability of South African truckers in particular. After lobbying and reiterating our position with the NBCRFLI, a comprehensive report on the outcomes and way forward pertaining the survival and future of the road freight sector will be communicated to all structures of the union, workers in the road freight sector and concerned parties.

Finally, a critical assessment of various antithetical relations within the road freight sector must be conducted to fathom the root cause of the irresolvable antipathy. Though we distance and condemn the acts of violence, we on the other end, support the struggle of workers in eradicating the scourge of employing undocumented foreign drivers for profit maximisation purposes, undermining of collective bargaining and violation labour legislation. The attack on the road freight sector encompasses a multiplicity of variables which include but not limited to racial and gender discrimination, social closure for the previously disadvantaged and violation of collective bargaining agreements by numerous fly by night employers. A mammoth task aimed at addressing this unfortunate predicament awaits all road freight stakeholders, government departments and community organisations.


Issued by: South African Transport & Allied Workers Union

For more information, contact

SATAWU General Secretary: Jack Mazibuko: 082 660 4793

SATAWU Deputy General Secretary: Anele Kiet: 071 021 1903

SATAWU Road Freight Coordinator: William Lekgoathi: 079 365 1098