Jean-Jacques Cornish

Truck attacks: criminals or xenophobes?

Police are deploying additional personnel along the arterial motorway between the commercial capital Johannesburg and the port city of Durban following a string of attacks on heavy trucks spurred by local drivers opposed to foreigners being used to haul freight.

A 55-year-old driver died from injuries sustained when his truck was stopped and set alight on the N3 near Heidelberg, south of Johannesburg on Monday.

More than 30 trucks have been targeted and at least a dozen of them torched since the weekend.

The trucks are stopped by vehicles blocking the four-lane highway. They are then looted before being set alight.

Drivers say they fear for their lives.

The highway carries mostly local trucks.

However much of the copper and other heavy cargo coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi is also hauled along the N3.

Leader of the All Truck Drivers Forum of South Africa Mandla Mngomenzulu insists his members are not responsible.

He blames criminal elements taking advantage of the local truck drivers’ grievances.

Local driver says they have been betrayed by transport firms who employ foreigners and pay them less than unionised truckers.

The attacks have been made for at least a decade both along the N3 and on the N1 motorway between Johannesburg and Cape Town

Police have not been able control the situation.

Sometime the attacks happen as trucks wait to pass through tollgates along the motorways.

The Road Freight Association, which represents the employers, is calling for government intervention to stop what it calls a war on its trucks.

Technical operation manager of the RFA Gavin Kelly says: “Truck drivers fear for their lives. We have seen trucks being shot at as they drove past assailants waiting on the side of the road and they’re not being apprehended.

“The drivers are just having random shots fired at them. It’s not just foreign drivers being attacked, it’s also local drivers in the firing line. 

“Obviously, people don’t want to send out their drivers if there is a chance that they are going to be injured or killed,.”

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.