An official from the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa (ZCSA), Ngqabutho Mabhena, on Tuesday, appeared before the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in Johannesburg to give evidence on the violent attacks in which long-distance truck drivers were targeted.
The attacks occurred during protests where foreigners, many of who were Zimbabweans, were allegedly accused of stealing jobs meant for locals.
Mabhena, who chairs ZCSA, said Zimbabwean truck drivers were easily identified as most of them could not speak isiZulu fluently. He said:
Some Zimbabwean drivers who couldn’t speak fluent isiZulu would then reply in English. We were also worried that Tshivenda- and Xitsonga-speaking drivers from South Africa would also be in trouble because they could not speak fluent isiZulu.
Mabhena also told the SAHRC that when the violence in the transport industry broke out, his organisation was approached to intervene. He said:
Following an outbreak of violence in the freight industry, we were approached to intervene. Our first point of entry was to have a meeting with Zimbabweans about their challenges. We were informed violence emanated from Africa Truck Drivers Association representing SA truck drivers.
We were told that there was competition between migrant drivers and South African drivers. We also established that a number of Zimbabweans were working in the industry. What we didn’t establish was why employers preferred Zimbabwean truck drivers.
We then sought a meeting with Africa Truck Drivers Association. We then discussed it telephonically with their representative, who told us that Zimbabwean drivers are not allowed to work in the industry.
The other issue raised was that Zimbabweans and other migrant drivers preferred to work long hours while South African drivers worked normal hours. Zimbabwean drivers would do more shifts with three drivers exchanging the wheel to earn more hours.