Police minister Bheki Cele and industry bodies condemn the violent torching of six loaded trucks
The early morning arson attack on six trucks on the N3 highway on Sunday, which led to the busy toll route linking Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal being closed most of the day, has been described as the result of infighting within a large trucking organisation and “pure criminality”.
Speaking at the scene of the incident, police minister Bheki Cele said he had been informed one of the trucks in the queue at the N3 Concession Plaza had come under attack by occupants of a white vehicle who had forced the truck to a stop, opened fire on it and then burnt it.
He said the other five trucks that were also burnt were side casualties, and that more damage would have been done had it not been for the fast intervention of security patrols that had fended off the attackers.
“We understand that part of it is about internal conflict within an organisation called the ACD [driver group] where you have some that are more moderate at odds with others who are radicals,” he said, adding that “drivers in South Africa having problems with foreign truck drivers” being another element.
Cele said he had been informed by the police commissioners of the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal that they were on the trail of the attackers and arrests were imminent.
Meanwhile the road has been repaired and reopened, and the queues and backups that built up throughout the day are starting to move through.
The Road Freight Association has issued a statement describing the arson attack as “unacceptable” and “a co-ordinated attack on the road freight sector” aimed at causing maximum mayhem and disruption.
The road freight sector carries 80% of the goods transported throughout South Africa, as well as for those countries that trade with international markets and use South African ports for import and export.
“Those who attack the road leg of logistics supply chains need to understand that the long-term effects will bring greater destruction to employment levels, and will result in further job losses, as businesses and supporting sectors shrink and trade moves away from South Africa,” said RFA CEO Gavin Kelly.
“While the immediate short-term losses will run into millions (including cost of vehicles, cargo, personal effects, road damage, EMS response, delays in movement and shipping penalties), the long-term impact will be felt in terms of increased security costs in the cost of logistics, higher insurance premiums, higher SARIA cover premiums, higher toll fees, less freight movement through South Africa, closure of freight companies, loss of jobs: the list continues,” Kelly warned.
“The N3 is probably the busiest corridor in South Africa, carrying far higher volumes of traffic (freight, passenger and light motor vehicles for commercial, tourism and private use) than any other corridor.”
Kelly said the targeted precision of the attack was a concern.
“This was well planned and efficiently implemented. At this point, no group has acknowledged that they are responsible,” he said.