South Africa is 'too dangerous' for Zambian truck drivers

ONE truck driver from Zambia, parked along Maydon Wharf this week, keeps a Bible on his dashboard, along with flags from the DRC and Zambia.Durban – Zambian truck drivers are steering clear of South African roads after their government issued a travel advisory warning them about possible protest action by local truck drivers.

Gavin Kelly, chief operating officer of the Road Freight Association, a coalition of truck owners, blamed the All Truck Drivers Forum (ATDF) of instigating it for nefarious means. “We are concerned for the safety of our drivers, we have talked to government, police and road authorities. We are told they will act swiftly to any illegal acts,” he said.

Kelly said truck owners would operate normally and would not pull any drivers back, but would be in constant communication with them and the authorities should any problems arise. “We are not going to down tools. We can’t afford it, the country can’t afford it.

Every day we spend not working is a loss in tax revenue,” said Kelly. Sipho Zungu, leader of the ATDF, said it had nothing to do with the protest action. He said it could be a show of support for the organisation as they will be appearing in Pietermaritzburg High Court as respondents against Positive Freight Solutions Forum.

The case involves the alleged hiring of foreign drivers. Brian Mumbi, a driver in one of a string of trucks, Zambian and other, parked along Durban’s Maydon Road at the harbour, and two others who would not give their names, said they would rush home and not return to South Africa until things settled down. “It is up to South Africa to protect foreigners.” 

He said South African truck drivers did not take kindly to foreigners driving trucks with South African registrations.  “They believe we are willing to accept any (small) amount of money for a job.” The other drivers said the mood had deteriorated to the point that all foreigner truckers, no matter what country’s number plates their vehicles displayed, were treated suspiciously.

Mumbi said he could not wait to cross the border into Zimbabwe at Beitbridge.  “I pray that I shall be able to go fast and reach the border before these things (the strike) start.” Recalling once seeing a truck burning 800m in front of him at Mooi River, he said South African protesters “don’t play”.

When in a tight spot, he just prays, he said. Mumbi keeps a Bible with him in his cab, which he reads a lot during the many hours of waiting that his job requires. It has a special place on his dashboard, with two small national flags, one of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the other of Zambia.

Mumbi called on the South African government to make it possible for people to get jobs and skills. He said truckers often faced criminals, including hijackers. He and his colleagues rated South Africa one of the most dangerous of the many Southern Africa Development Community countries they travelled through, coming a close second after the DRC.

“I thank God when I get out of the Democratic Republic of Congo where people are violent and are thieves. And the police do not like to help anyone who does not speak their language, Swahili. South Africa is only a little bit safer,” he said, criticising the country for having so many thieves who either mug drivers, hijack them or steal things like tarpaulins off the backs of trucks.

Mumbi said police had responded to truckers’ requests by increasing patrols, but if crimes were reported, suspects were not arrested and stolen property was never recovered.

Independent On Saturday

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