Debate on IFP Motion on Working Conditions for Truck Drivers in South Africa Speech By Hon M.B Gwala, Mpl KZN Legislature

Hon Speaker,

The IFP would like to commend Hon Speaker for approving and allowing this Debate to take place in order to come up with long term amicable solutions to address poor working conditions of South African truck drivers and to what is perceived as xenophobic attacks caused by the alleged employment of foreign truck drivers by Logistics companies in South Africa.

The motion debated today, came after the IFP was approached by concerned truck drivers in KwaZulu-Natal to intervene on allegations that the provincial government has utterly failed to address the issue of their side-lining by employers and overall poor working conditions in the trucking industry. They accused government authorities of being in cahoots with trucking companies by being the enablers of all the problems they are facing in the industry.

Let me categorically state it clear that whatever the reasons are but the IFP is against xenophobia. The IFP is against looting, lawlessness, burning of trucks and destruction of property. Hooligans who are looting and burning trucks must be arrested. The IFP believes that every citizen is expected to constructively shape public debate and social cohesion through evidence-based statements. Repeating stereotypes does not advance the goals of upholding the fundamental rights of all in society. The IFP further believes that action needs to be taken to address xenophobia at the community level including by carrying out campaigns aimed to raise awareness and educate the public about the negative effects of xenophobia, protect potential victims and discourage people from indulging in such negative practices.

The IFP is of the opinion that South Africa’s continental partners are likely to abandon our local ports if violence in the trucking industry continues. This would be detrimental to the KZN economy as Durban serves as the biggest import and export port in sub-Saharan Africa for industries such as the motor industry. International investors in the trucking industry could be compelled to move their exports through Mozambique and Namibian ports. In a year-to-date comparison at the end of May, growth in the total commercial vehicle has shrunk to 2.3% due to this sabotage of trucks in our national roads.

Concerns mentioned by these drivers include but not limited to unfavourable working conditions such as unmaintained trucks, corruption, bribery and employment of foreign nationals over local drivers.

It is alleged that these companies keep personal information of local drivers to claim for insurance damages when trucks are involved in accidents even though those local drivers are not employed by these companies.

They further alleged that foreign truck drivers are using fake drivers’ licences and permits whereby a card from e.g. Clicks stores is used to make fake driver’s licences. The government officials are allegedly taking bribes for these illegal licences and passport for illegal drivers to avoid being arrested. Big companies are allegedly bribing government authorities to turn a blind eye all these shenanigans. It is alleged that there are 3000 exemption permits issued to foreign drivers by Home Affairs which are non-renewal now the question is how many drivers are still using these permits? Most truck drivers are often paid based on the amount of work they did: by trip or load but some are forced by employers to move overloaded trucks, which end up damaging roads.

The IFP believes that urgent stringent interventions are needed because the Inter-Ministerial Committee that was established specifically to respond to these issues, which started in March 2018 has failed dismally in coming up with tangible solutions of addressing these matters.

The IFP echoes similar sentiments with truck drivers that priority must be given to locals when employing truck drivers as lot of trucking companies are flouting the South African laws by employing foreigners. The South African labour law stipulates that employers could only import skills that are NOT available in the country and many companies disregard this law to maximise profits. Truck driving skills are available abundantly in South Africa, therefore cannot be classified as a scarce skill.

The government policy also stipulates clearly that in every company more than 60% of employees must be South African and at least 40% could be foreign nationals with permission to work in the country. Hence it is unlawful for employers in terms of the Immigration Act, it is unlawful for an employer to knowingly employ a foreigner who is not authorised to be employed in South Africa.

The IFP is fully aware of the visit made by the Transport MEC in KZN Mr Mxolisi Kaunda in July to some of these companies alleged to employ foreigners, therefore we demand that action must be taken against these companies to ensure that they prioritise locals first.

We call for an investigation that will locate all corrupt companies and bring them to book and further locate the corrupt Home Affairs officials, Department of Labour officials, Transport Department officials as well as Traffic officials who take bribes from these companies. We demand private companies to come on board and help this country reduce the high unemployment rate especially youth unemployment. We as a country are at a point where we cannot tolerate the behaviour of these companies while many South African drivers are languishing without employment.

If this matter continues to be overlooked by our government, this will paralyse the entire economy of this country especially the Logistics sector. Therefore, the IFP urges government to intervene and ensure these companies implement the South African labour laws in favour of local truck drivers and also improve working conditions in the country. This will eliminate and prevent these attacks.

AFTER THE DEBATE THE IFP PROPOSED THE FOLLOWING SOLUTIONS:

  • The IFP calls for stringent verification system of truck drivers especially foreign nationals.
  • The IFP is of the view that it is time to get serious about enforcing immigration laws.
  • Considering the high rate of unemployment in the country there must be a review of government policy that says 60% of employees must be South African and only 40% could be foreign nationals.
  • Thorough investigation into alleged corruption by Home Affairs, SARS officials, Police Officials and Trucking companies must be conducted and those found guilty must be punished severely.
  • Responsible government departments should conduct law enforcement operations, including improved monitoring systems, unannounced visits and inspections to ensure compliance with the country’s labour laws.
  • Tightened law enforcement in our borders.
  • There must be a strong monitoring system for sectors that employ more immigrants especially the Hospitality, Construction and Logistics sectors. The system should be able to flush out companies that are flouting the law.
  • Owners of trucking companies found to be violating labour laws must be arrested without fear or favour.
  • There must be dedicated permanent team of law enforcement that will be responsible for violent hotspots on a daily basis.
  • Anyone found to be involved in looting and burning of trucks must be arrested. This is non-negotiable.
  • All logistics companies must be registered with the Bargaining Council
  • It must be investigated who are these companies that are employing foreign drivers.

I THANK YOU