Durban – KwaZulu-Natal has seen the number of truck hijackings increase by more than 50% in the latest crime statistics, sparking a call from the freight industry for urgent intervention.
According to the provincial statistics, there was an increase of 53.8% in truck hijackings, with 80 cases recorded in 2018/2019 compared with 52 in the previous period.
The sharp rise in the hijacking of trucks in the province was in stark contrast to the national picture, where truck hijackings saw a decrease of 1.7%.
The provincial increase comes as the freight industry in the province has been hit by several attacks on trucks, incidents allegedly sparked by a protest by disgruntled local truck drivers.
The local drivers were protesting against foreigners being given preference for jobs in the freight industry.
Positive Freight Solutions Forum, a forum acting for truck owners, called on the government to take a stern stance against groups targeting truck drivers in the province.
The forum’s advocate, Pria Hassan, said the constant attacks had left many drivers fearing for their lives.
“We have drivers who want to down tools and go on strike.
“They are fed up. We need a real solution that will see an end to these attacks,” she said.
Hassan said Police Minister Bheki Cele was trying to eradicate the problem.
She added that as a result of the violence, there had been a massive exodus of investors and the government needed to ask for help from other sectors that could contribute by hiring unemployed people.
“These strikes are purported to be started by a group of unemployed people. If companies hired just two people without jobs, it would help,” she said.
The high number of attacks on trucks in the past financial year have had a devastating impact on the economy.
Last month, the Zambian embassy said they had received complaints from their drivers, some of whom had been assaulted, while the Zimbabwean Cross Border Transport Association threatened to stop all cross-border transport if the attacks continued.
The head of Justice and Violence Prevention at the Institute for Security Studies, Gareth Newham, said the truck hijacking figures for KZN were alarming.
He said often crimes were being carried out by the same group of people.
“The police need to effectively act on intelligence. If they do that, this issue can be nipped in the bud,” he said.
Newham said the truck attacks had a negative impact on the economy of the province.
“This also affects many businesses and communities,” he said.
According to Newham, the noted increase in arson attacks in the province, which increased by 11%, could be attributed to incidents where trucks had been set alight.
He said it could also be how crimes were reported during unrest and service delivery protests where local shops and other structures were burnt down.
Speaking on commercial crime, which also saw an increase of 21% in KZN, Newham said the increase could be linked to more cases being reported to the police.
The spokesperson for KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala, Bongani Tembe, said they had come up with a plan to tackle the increase in truck attacks.
“We are confident that we will find an amicable solution in the near future. A number of proposals have been put on the table by the industry and the government,” he said.