Ore truckers get up to old tricks in Lebombo border post queue

Ore truckers get up to old tricks in Lebombo border post queue

August 11, 2023

In the absence of traffic officials responsible for maintaining law and order in the night-time queue of trucks bottlenecking towards South Africa’s Lebombo border into Mozambique, unscrupulous tipper drivers are pulling old stunts.

This morning evidence emerged of an ore carrier caught on the Grimman Road, a gravel track south of the N4’s Rissik Street turnoff into Komatipoort.

A source from the border town confirmed that the road was not supposed to be used by trucks.

“It’s there for the exclusive use of the farming community.”

In July, during a visit to the area, Freight News was told that many of the farmers funded road maintenance themselves and had requested that ore trucks heading towards the Port of Maputo refrain from using alternative roads to skip the queue on the N4.

The same source said: “In the past it’s been so bad farmers can’t get out of their gates as gridlocking shifts from the N4 onto farm roads.

The involvement of taxi associations, using marshals to do the work of traffic officials refusing to work after hours, has included attempts to stop truckers from veering off the N4, using alternatives like Grimman Road.

When the taxi marshals got involved a few weeks ago, they used a pickup with a sound system on the back which drove up and down the N4, warning truckers to stay in the queue.

Attempts to skip the queue and blatantly race to the front at night, when some drivers pull off the road to catch up on sleep, have resulted in some truckers having their wheels deflated.

Incidents of firearms being brandished and shots fired have also been reported.

In the latest incident, characteristic of the tense mood on the N4, marshals can be seen manhandling a driver working for Lalgy, one of the transporters working the ore line to the port and back.

The source said the driver had probably deserved it.

“They (truckers) are pulling the same old stunts by trying to use roads they’re not supposed to. And it’s all because there are no traffic officials to stop them from getting out of the queue.”

He added that once drivers saw they could get away with it, besides the Grimman Road, they had started using roads such as the Coopersdal Road which heads southeast from the N4 before joining the Strydomblock Road that heads back to the border.

Drivers getting away with it manage to avoid several kilometres of tail-backing on the N4.

Some drivers head further southeast on the Coopersdal Road towards the R571 “Mananga Road” that heads back to the border along the border with Mozambique.

Such a detour cuts a bigger chunk out of the N4 queue but involves a low-water bridge across a bend in the Komati River.

“No way is that bridge meant for big trucks,” the source said.

“After the recent rains, we asked Sanral (SA National Roads Agency) to send an engineer to inspect the bridge, but it’s still being used.

“Make no mistake, the N4 is the only road that should be used by ore trucks to get to the border.”

Drivers though have been desperate for months.

When they don’t offload at the ore terminals in Maputo at a certain time and date, they have their pay docked. Others get paid incentives for quicker turnaround time so transporters can increase revenue.

Behind the scenes, industry executives are trying to increase cargo processing at the border but civil services and customs efficiencies continue to fall short.

Last week Thursday Mpumalanga’s traffic chief, John Nkuna, attended a meeting in Komatipoort where he was reminded of the plight of Komatipoort’s people, desperate for law and order in the queue, especially at night.

He matter-of-factly told stakeholders that his department didn’t have budget to place extra traffic officials on the road, especially at night when even police officers are often too scared – and there are too few of them – to protect traffic officers.

The meeting was called by taxi marshals who informed Nkuna of their intention to withdraw from ‘policing’ the queue because traffic control was not really their responsibility.

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