Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) president Bonang Mohale said it is no coincidence that South Africa has been hit by a spate of truck attacks during the second anniversary of the July Riots, with events following a similar pattern to 2021.
City Press reported that an organisation of truckers sympathetic to former president Jacob Zuma and xenophobic Operation Dudula were behind the recent truck attacks.
Citing a new confidential crime intelligence report, it said the movement demanded that government remove all foreign national truck drivers from the road freight industry with immediate effect.
It also reported that the security cluster in Cabinet had been “pushed into action following the midweek Constitutional Court judgment on the case involving former president Jacob Zuma”.
“The cluster was forced to convene an urgent meeting to discuss the security threats posed by the judgment on Thursday,” it said.
“The cluster discussed plans to increase security forces on the ground in hotspot areas identified during the July unrest of 2021, which started after Zuma was first imprisoned two years ago.”
Mohale told Newzroom Afrika that South Africa would face unrest last seen in July 2021 if the attacks on trucks are not dealt with swiftly.
“We are going back to what happened in 2021. Where we burnt 200 shopping malls, 1,400 ATMs, and 11 warehouses.”
Over the last week, over 20 trucks have been burnt across KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Mpumalanga along major highways such as the N2, N3, and N4.
These routes are the backbone of South Africa’s economy, with trucks transporting 86% of total trade in the country.
“It is economic sabotage”, Mohale said, “We continue with these own goals and self-inflicted harm.”
July 2021 followed a similar pattern to what is happening today, according to Mohale, with truck burnings followed by looting and widespread unrest.
The country cannot afford a repeat of the July Riots in 2021, which had an estimated cost on the economy of R50 billion and resulted in thousands of job losses.
Mohale said businesses have not recovered since July 2021, with companies perceiving KZN as unsafe and a place where the cost of doing business is too high.
“KZN, if it is not careful, will condemn its people to a self-perpetuating cycle of poverty.”
Road Freight Association CEO Gavin Kelly said the truck burning incidents may result in some companies closing permanently due to an inability to transport freight securely.
“These incidents bring the fear of operating on the N3 back into the front of people’s minds. People will ask, should I apply my business here if it is unsafe?”
Foreign companies may also second-guess whether they should import goods through South African ports, particularly Durban, with the country quickly getting a reputation for a general lack of safety.
Kelly said that foreign companies have already begun to look at using other ports in Africa to import their goods.
Efficient Group chief economist Dawie Roodt echoed this concern, saying that truck-burning incidents indicate South Africa is not a safe place to do business and will scare off investors.
“The South African economy will suffer, especially the poor who have to deal with higher prices for basic goods.”
The truck burnings for Roodt are only one example of the government failing South Africans.
“We have to do something about the efficiency of the state. The state is failing us here. The railroads are not working. Security is not working in South Africa either.”
Roodt also raised the possibility that such disruptions to logistics in South Africa would result in increased inflation as products cannot get to market.
Disruptions will also impact economic growth. “We should consider ourselves lucky to have 0.1% GDP growth in South Africa,” Roodt said.