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.
Tembe also said the increase in sexual offences was concerning. He agreed that the various spheres of government needed to work together to combat sexual offences.
Regarding contact crimes such as murder, rape and sexual offences, all recorded increases in the province and nationally.
“It is concerning that violent crimes like murder, rape and sexual offences have increased,” Newham said.
“These are crimes that the authorities cannot necessarily police alone.
“We do need to see, in KZN, more especially, the Departments of Education and Social Development playing a more active role in initiating programmes to educate the youth about abuse and to speak to parents about such issues,” Newham said.
KZN violence monitor Mary de Haas said she was not surprised by the figures.
“We should not need statistics to tell us that violence is abnormally high and that it is urgent that we do something about it,” De Haas said.
“In the short term, there needs to be a drastic overhaul of detective services and proper co-ordination between stations, special units and crime intelligence. A lot of this is about management because there are competent members in the police, but if management is bad – and I am talking about all levels, including stations – their talents are not necessarily utilised as they should be,” she said.
De Haas said that in the long term, there was a need to provide decent, caring environments for children to grow up in with proper role models – not people who abused them.
According to the police briefing on the statistics for murder yesterday, most murders happened over weekends, which suggested that they were fuelled by alcohol and drug abuse.
Cele said a very high number of murder victims were killed by people whom they knew, hence these were not murders that may have been prevented by better policing.
“It would be very difficult for the police to police such cases where people know each other,” Cele said
Speaking on the overall statistics, he said that while the SAPS were not where they wanted to be, there had been improvements since the previous statistics were released.
“I think we need to look at it broader and say: ‘Yes, team, you are not as good as we want you to be, but you are not as bad as you were.’ From our side, as a ministry, we do not see any reason for heads to roll now,” he said.