Durban – FOREIGN truck drivers have described their working conditions as a “living hell” after facing attacks from locals who accused them of stealing jobs.
Zimbabwean driver Steven Bagadzi, a father of four from Harare, said he prayed everyday before reporting for work. He said his brother Ronald, also a truck driver, was recovering from a leg injury after his truck was torched last week in Midrand, in Gauteng.
Ronald, who works in Pinetown, had been delivering goods when he was assaulted with a baseball bat.
“We are scared to die so far away from our families. But we cannot abandon our jobs for the sake of our families. We are caught between a rock and a hard place,” he said.
Bagadzi said he was a competent driver with a licence which he obtained after he was granted asylum in 2008. He pleaded with officials to urgently address the issue before innocent people were killed.
“We understand locals are angry, but we cannot refuse job opportunities for the sake of our families. I came here to escape poverty and political war in Zimbabwe,” Bagadzi said.
A truck driver from Malawi, Ali M’bwana, said he had to leave his job in Clairwood after he was threatened by locals who accused him of stealing their jobs. M’bwana said he could not risk his life for a job that also forced him to work a double shift for a pittance.
“I decided to go back to the street than die for peanuts. The long hours we worked for were not compensated. But there are also a handful of good owners who treat drivers with dignity.”
The organiser of Zimbabwean truck drivers, Percy Nhau, a former driver, said the situation was tense in Pinetown and Durban harbour with drivers facing death threats. He said he understood that some did not have permits. Nhau said it was wrong to apply a blanket approach to every foreign driver when dealing with the issue of the permit.
“Those without proper papers are paid R6 000 monthly while a local driver gets paid R20 000. They cannot object for fear of being deported. We need truck bosses to also come on board,” he said.
Nhau said there were more than 400 Zimbabwean truck drivers in the country.