The Road and Freight Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC), in partnership with the road and freight industry stakeholders, have agreed on an eleven-point action plan to deal with industry challenges and the recruitment of foreign nationals.
The Road and Freight IMC met with industry players that included, among others, the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), the industry bargaining council, the All Truck Drivers Alliance (ATDF) and the Transport Association of South Africa (Tasa).
All the parties signed an agreement committing to the plan.
The IMC was formed to deal with escalating road blockages and protests by disgruntled South Africa truck drivers. These protests, the IMC says, adversely impact mobility, scare foreign investors and negatively impact on the economy and essential supply chains using affected corridors.
In turn, the protests are a response by truck drivers based on their perceptions that the industry is employing foreign truck drivers at the exclusion of South African drivers on a pretext of a scarcity of skilled truck drivers in South Africa.
The IMC includes Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, Police Minister Bheki Cele and Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.
Nxesi says the meeting was a joint effort to mitigate the problems affecting the industry and find a solution, adding that the action plan is a culmination of a series of meetings held with the industry and will form part of a blueprint to be announced once approved by all parties.
The action plan involves facilitating the appointment of a task team, enforcing visa requirements, consideration of all foreign driving licences, registration and compliance with labour laws and registration of operators in terms of Section 45 of the National Road Traffic Act.
The plan also sets out to review the traffic register number, review cross-border road transport legislation, amend the National Road Traffic Regulation, integrated joint multi-disciplinary law enforcement operations and a driver training programme, and consider the introduction of operating licences for the industry.
He also cautioned that non-compliance with local legislation cannot be allowed to displace South Africans in the labour market. “We cannot allow the introduction of slave employment practices. We are going to be very hard going forward”.
Going forward, the IMC has formed a task team constituting director-generals from the four government departments, which is charged with conducting research work and developing a plan of action for the resolution of the challenges affecting the industry, as well as to report to the IMC.
“Both the Department of Employment and Labour and the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) have reported that while some operators have asserted that South Africa lacks skilled truck drivers, the inspections and law enforcement operations have found that truck driving was an abundant skill in South Africa and, therefore, not a scarce skill, as purported by some operators,” says Nxesi.
He adds that the DHA conducted over 21 joint multidisciplinary law enforcement operations and inspections to assess the extent of use of foreign, and at times, illegal, truck drivers.
Further, Cele warns employers that they will be arrested for employing illegal immigrants.
Meanwhile, Nxesi says members of Operation Dudula turned up during the recent weekend meeting and were asked to recuse themselves because it was an industry issue. The IMC was planning to host a separate meeting with the members of Operation Dudula later this week.