It is still unclear whether the recent burning of trucks is in retaliation to foreign nationals, a repeat of the July 2021 riots, or simply economic sabotage.
The motive behind a wave of recent attacks where over 20 trucks were burned on national roads is still unclear, but these attacks will undoubtedly have far-reaching implications.
Why are they burning trucks?
There is still a lot that is unknown about the at least 21 trucks which have burned on national roads all across the country in the past week. So far, no group has claimed the attacks, no arrests have been made in any of the attacks and no motive has been established for why these attacks continue to happen.
A spokesperson from the All Truck Drivers Forum posed that these attacks may be aimed at foreign nationals (a sentiment shared by The Road Freight Association, who called it a “coordinated attack on the road freight sector”). But Police Minister Bheki Cele confirmed that only a few of the trucks that were attacked belonged to foreigners.
Cele also shut down the rumours that these attacks may be linked to the July 2021 unrest, insisting that the truck burning attacks were “organised, coordinated and sophisticated” and that the attacks were, instead, aimed at disrupting the economy.
The KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, echoed this sentiment, describing the burning of the trucks as “economic sabotage”.
Why these attacks seem organised
While these attacks have been brutal, they do seem to be fairly organised, or at the very least – planned. In each instance, the attackers had two vehicles and they were able to set the trucks on fire before forcing the drivers to vacate their vehicles, all on major roads like the N2, the N3, the N4 and N11.
The impact on the economy
Trucks are an incredibly important part of the South African economy, as they are responsible for transporting the vast majority of goods throughout the country.
The owners who have lost trucks in these attacks have no doubt lost millions in terms of goods, equipment and assets, but these attacks may also have far-reaching implications like injury and medical costs, loss of employment and declining investor confidence.
All of these will all impact the South African economy in the long-term. Dube-Ncube estimated that the KwaZulu-Natal attacks alone resulted in about R60 million worth of damage.
What are the police doing about the burning trucks?
Though the police have not revealed what their investigations unearthed yet, but the army has been deployed to several areas, including Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal to support the police force in the truck attacks.
Dube-Ncube also revealed on Thursday that nine suspects were taken in for questioning regarding these attacks.