Police Minister Bheki Cele maintains this week’s bout of truck torchings – with 21 reported across three provinces – are “organised, co-ordinated and sophisticated operations seeking to undermine and sabotage the State”.
On Wednesday, while addressing a media briefing to “appraise the nation”, his Cabinet colleague tasked with transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga, called the torching “criminality” and “economic sabotage”.
“These criminals are committing economic sabotage, which must attract the harshest penalties permissible in law. Our road network is the lifeblood of our economy and transports valuable cargo that keeps the wheels of our economy turning,” a statement has Chikunga saying.
In his briefing Cele said investigations and “intelligence collection” identified “12 persons of interest” adding “evidence points to organised co-ordinated and sophisticated operations” which may be business related and “not just random acts of criminality”.
The Police Minister said police action on truck burning incidents was “already underway”. Included is heightened police visibility “leaving nothing to chance in all provinces” with all major routes secured and “regular patrols conducted on identified high risk routes”.
In the wake of the first fiery attacks on trucks this time around on the Van Reenen pass the Road Freight Association (RFA) called them “a co-ordinated attack on the road freight sector”.
“Both the specific spot on the N3, as well as the timing, were chosen to cause the best outcome in terms of mayhem and disruption,” a statement said.
RFA association Chief Executive Gavin Kelly is on record saying: “Without trucks, South Africa stops. What played out on the N3 at Van Reenen’s Pass in the early hours of 9 July was a ruthless attack on the road freight supply chain – and the effects (economic, business confidence, security, law and order and corridor movement) are far reaching”.
“While immediate short term losses will run into millions of Rand, including cost of vehicles, cargo, personal effects, road damage, EMS response, delays in movement and shipping penalties, the long term impact will be felt in terms of increased security costs into logistics costs, higher insurance premiums, higher SARIA cover premiums, higher toll fees, less freight movement through South Africa, closure of freight companies and loss of jobs among others.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa, speaking on Wednesday after a National Rural Youth Service Corps (Narysec) passing out parade, said, “We will not allow those that intend to sabotage the economy of our country to have their way. We will go after them and they will face the full might of the law. I have directed the police, supported by other security agencies such as intelligence, to spare nothing… to do all they have to find these people because South Africa cannot have people like that who do as they wish, kill people, burn trucks and stop traffic on our highways.”