BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
ZIMBABWE plans to engage South Africa following “concerning” reports that Pretoria will not renew permits of local truck drivers based in the neighbouring country beyond December.
For years, the government of South Africa has been under pressure from South African truck drivers’ associations demanding that their government de-registers all foreign truck drivers.
In October, the truck drivers staged a protest that saw Transport minister Fikile Mbalula commit to an agreement barring foreign nationals from driving a South African registered truck using a foreign professional driving permit pending relevant legislation.
The legislation is not yet in place sparking the latest round of protests.
Transport and Infrastructural Development ministry permanent secretary Thedius Chinyanga said the government was worried about the threats to cancel permits of local truck drivers, and said this was a violation of standing bilateral and regional protocols.
“South African companies who have contracted foreigners as drivers are now under pressure to employ their nationals.
“Consequently, this will lead to a possible termination of employment contracts of Zimbabwean drivers if their work permits are not renewed,” Chinyanga wrote in a letter addressed to Foreign Affairs and International Trade permanent secretary James Manzou dated November 25 seeking his intervention to engage South Africa at a diplomatic level.
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“This is a major concern for our truck drivers and transport operators as our bilateral and regional protocols provide that cross-border road transport must be conducted in the spirit of fair competition, providing for equal treatment, and upholding the principles of non-discrimination and reciprocity.”
Chinyanga added: “These protocols are meant to facilitate the smooth flow of cross-border traffic and promote trade within the Sadc and Comesa regions.
“It is important to note that truck drivers are also key drivers of our economies within Sadc and, therefore, must be treated with dignity, and protected by every country in the region.
“Therefore, we kindly request your intervention and use the diplomatic channels at your disposal to avert a potentially volatile situation.”
The latest push to de-register foreign truck drivers comes days after South Africa announced that it would not renew the Special Zimbabweans Exemption Permits beyond December 31.