Zimbabwe has expressed deep concern over growing attacks and threats on its nationals in South Africa since the beginning of the year.
In a statement, the Zimbabwe Embassy in South Africa said threats of violence against Zimbabweans in the country escalated to alarming level in the past week, prompting officials to request an urgent meeting with South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation officials (DIRCO).
A campaign by groups of South African truckers against foreign truck drivers has raised fears of xenophobic attacks, at a time violent clashes were witnessed in Pretoria during the week.
“The threats have further been accompanied by public written statements from some organisations calling for ‘a nationwide stoppage of all trucks in South Africa’ from September 2,” the Embassy statement said.
While the South African government has assured the representatives of southern African countries that security measures would be put in place to address their concerns, the Zimbabwean embassy has advised its nationals to take precautionary action to ensure their safety and protection of their property.
South African ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mphakama Mbete, said he was aware that some organisations plan to embark on a nationwide campaign against the employment of foreign drivers, but he could not give details.
“I am aware that there are some groups that want to go on strike. Our government is always concerned about these things because they hurt the economy,” said Ambassador Mbete.
He expressed confidence that the security forces will be able to ensure the safety and security of people going about their business.
“You might also be aware that today (Saturday) our Deputy President (David Mabuza) was at the Mpumalanga Agricultural Show, where he condemned xenophobic attacks or any such activities. In fact, the Deputy President actually encouraged Zimbabweans to come and exhibit their goods at the show,” Ambassador Mbete said.
Sources within the Zimbabwean consulate said a planned meeting between representatives of Southern African countries and DIRCO officials was postponed indefinitely, much to the dismay of Zimbabwean representatives, who had hoped to seek assurances on security.
Organisers of the planned nationwide strike are complaining about poor salaries and what they say is the unfair employment of foreign nationals by South African transport companies.
Earlier in March, a Zimbabwean truck driver was assaulted in a suspected xenophobic attack in Durban, in the KwaZulu Natal Province of South Africa.
Zimbabwe’s Consul-General to South Africa, Mr Batiraishe Mukonoweshuro, confirmed at the time that the truck driver, Mr Tineyi Takawira, was admitted at King Edward Hospital after being stabbed.
Several human rights organisations have, in the past, urged the South African government to take urgent measures to protect foreign truck drivers from violence, intimidation and harassment. South Africa has had several cycles of xenophobic violence.
More than 200 people, mostly foreign truck drivers, have been killed in South Africa since March 2018, according to research by the Road Freight Association, which represents road freight service providers.
Groups of people claiming to be South African truck drivers have thrown petrol bombs at trucks and shot at, stoned, stabbed, and harassed foreign truck drivers to force them out of the trucking industry.
Many foreign truck drivers have lost their jobs, despite having valid work permits, or have been unable to return to work due to injuries or damage to their trucks. Some of the attackers claimed affiliation to the All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF), an association of South African truck drivers.