KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala has condemned what he has termed "an economic sabotage" after police seized over R1 billion worth of fake goods during law enforcement operations in the province.
Counterfeit goods with an estimated value of more than R1 billion were confiscated by police during the
integrated multi-disciplinary law enforcement operations in KwaZulu-Natal in the past 12 months.
Premier Zikalala revealed this during a law enforcement operation on Thursday at Bayhead Road leading to the Durban Harbour which was targeted at ensuring compliance in the freight and logistics industry.
The proliferation of counterfeit goods is tantamount to economic sabotage because these illicit activities steal the market share from legitimate businesses and has negative implications for economic growth, Zikalala said.
He said that during the enforcement operation, five undocumented foreign truck drivers were ordered to disembark from their trucks and were arrested by police.
The operation focused on verifying the validity of truck driver licenses and permits, inspecting documents of foreign truck drivers, searching trucks for prohibited, restricted and counterfeit goods, enforcement of traffic regulations and crime fighting.
Premier Zikalala, who was joined by the MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, Neliswa Peggy Nkonyeni and MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Ravi Pillay, said the enforcement operations aimed at addressing issues of compliance in the freight and logistics industry will be intensified.
This multi-disciplinary law enforcement operation is also intended to address complaints about the dominance of foreign nationals in the freight and logistics industry. Foreign nationals working in the country are required to have the requisite permits and documents that meet the requirements of South Africa, but in most cases most of the truck drivers are driving on our roads without those documents.
"Within an hour since the operation started,five undocumented foreign truck drivers were arrested which proves that there are a lot of truck drivers who are driving heavy goods vehicles without proper documents, the Premier said.
Premier Zikalala also called on the Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi, to expedite the policy that will regulate the employment of foreign nationals especially in the areas of scarce and critical skills.
We dont believe that South African companies that are based in the country should prioritise the employment of non-South Africans because we dont believe that driving trucks is a scarce skill that is the reason behind our call to Minister Nxesi to expedite the policy that will regulate the employment of foreign nationals, he said.
He also called on the associations representing truck drivers not to blockade roads or burn tyres when they have grievances, but must engage with relevant parties.
We will also engage the freight and logistics industry to prioritise the employment of South Africans. We believe these operations will help us to reduce complaints, violent protests but also to regulate the freight and logistics industry, he said.
Zikalala said government was not against foreign owned freight and logistics companies based outside the country employing foreign drivers but when they drive trucks in South Africa those drivers must have valid permits and the requisite documents for them to drive in the country.
He also called on the truck driver associations not to resort to violence and road closures to voice their grievances.
"We have a functioning forum led by national and provincial government where the industry and drivers regularly meet with government. We should not ever strike over foreign truck drivers. This and other matters can, and will definitely be resolved," Zikalala said.
The integrated multi-disciplinary law enforcement operations comprising various government agencies including the South African Police Service, National Defence Force, Metro Police, Road Traffic Inspectorate, the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Labour is set to continue in order to ensure compliance in the freight and logistics industry as well as address challenges facing truck drivers.