The N3 highway has been blocked near Harrismith as part of a national protest by truck drivers.

According to Thania Dhoogra, operations manager for the N3 Toll Concession, the highway has been blocked near Montrose in the Free State.

"Truck drivers are obstructing the N3 Toll Route in both directions near Montrose. Law enforcement has been deployed and are currently monitoring the situation," said Dhoogra.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Motantsi Makhele confirmed that around 30 truck drivers had parked their trucks on the N3, "closing the road totally".

"They are demanding to see [Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula]. Their main grievance is foreign truck drivers being allowed to drive trucks in the country. The drivers are peaceful and just standing around. No acts of violence have been reported," he said.

Makhele could not confirm who was leading the protest.

The protest has been causing extensive traffic backlogs between Montrose and Harrismith, as well as delays northbound towards Gauteng at Tugela Plaza.

"Road users are advised to delay travel to the area (between Tugela Plaza and Harrismith) until further notice," said Dhoogra.

Traffic was backed up for at least a kilometre in both directions, Makhele added.

"Public Order Police [have been] deployed, and some trucks are starting to move," he said.

According to All Truck Drivers Foundation (ADTF) secretary-general Sifiso Nyathi, the nationwide shutdown by local truck drivers is aimed at forcing freight companies to stop employing foreign nationals.

He said ATDF was not behind the protect action, which the truck drivers themselves allegedly organised, but added that the organisation did support the mass action.

"South African drivers are being exploited. The [freight company] owners want to hire foreigners for less," he said.

"It's a shame. Trucking is a scarce skill. The drivers are fed up. They don't even want to listen to us as leaders."

In June 2020, ATDF threatened a national strike to protest claims that foreign nationals were being employed by the industry instead of local drivers. At the time, the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria granted an interdict against the planned strike, restraining ATDF and Nyathi from organising, encouraging or inciting any protest action. The ATDF said it was not involved in the June protests, despite the interdict.

The protest began on Sunday in other provinces. In the Eastern Cape, truck drivers were prevented from travelling on the N10 highway outside Middelburg.

SOURCE: NEWS24