South African President Cyril Ramaphosa vowed to crack down on violence targeting foreign nationals, particularly truck drivers, after a wave of violence in recent days.
Ramaphosa said on Sept. 3 he would address the xenophobic attacks after five people were killed. But the campaign against foreign truck drivers has lasted far longer and claimed more than 200 lives since March 2018, according to research from the South Africa’s Road Freight Association.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) highlighted the staggering death toll in an August report that called for South African authorities to urgently intervene.
“Groups of people claiming to be South African truck drivers have thrown gasoline bombs at trucks and shot at, stoned, stabbed and harassed foreign truck drivers to force them out of the trucking industry,” HRW wrote.
Leaders of an organization connected to some attackers, All Truck Drivers Foundation, told HRW that it is against the employment of undocumented foreign drivers.
The violence has been indiscriminate, and trucking companies have said they need to hire foreign drivers because of the lack of quality local drivers, particularly for the transport of hazardous materials.
Drivers for foreign-based carriers also have been targeted. The Zambian government advised drivers on Sept. 2 to avoid South Africa until the violence subsides.
Did you know?
Vehicles registered in the United Kingdom will need to display a “GB” sticker while traveling in Ireland and other EU countries after Brexit, according to the British government.
“That’s around 165k Goods Vehicles & Trailers that would have to adhere to any new frivolous cross border rules and red tape … utter nonsense.”
– Seamus Leheny, policy manager of the Freight Transport Association in Northern Ireland, tweeting about the “GB” sticker requirement.
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Human Rights Watch found that South African employers have done little to protect foreign drivers, and in some cases have fired them. One company fired 39 drivers from Zimbabwe, all of whom had valid work permits, according to HRW’s report. Others have been asked to stay home.
The South African government has done little thus far to address this. But the latest spate of violence has gotten more attention and drew condemnation from other African leaders. Hopefully, it will mark the beginning of a reprieve for those truckers whose work can be hazardous even on a good day.
Hammer down, everyone!