Police are on high alert to prevent further supply chain disruption on critical roads in South Africa and have identified 12 potential suspects in connection with the torching of 21 trucks along the N2, N3 and N4 highways.
That’s according to a statement by police minister Bheki Cele earlier today, 13 July.
Cele said the police ministry had concluded a high-level meeting with the provincial commissioners of KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Free State, Gauteng and Mpumalanga, led by national police commissioner, general Fannie Masemola.
He said the meeting had focused on the arson attacks in which 21 trucks had been set alight in KZN, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
He said police had identified 12 possible suspects.
“Whether it is economic sabotage, labour, or service delivery-related disputes, police are closing in on those who choose to use violence and intimidation for whatever motive,” Cele said.
“Intelligence suggests that attacks on trucks may be business-related and we know that these are not just random acts of criminality. Evidence before us points to organised, coordinated, and sophisticated operations that seek to undermine and sabotage the state,” he said.
“We are encouraged that 12 persons of interest have been identified through investigations and intelligence gathering.”
Cele said in KZN nine trucks had been attacked since Sunday, 9 July, when in the first incident, six trucks were torched along Van Reenen’s Pass.
He said one truck driver had refused to stop when accosted by a group of armed men who shot at the truck, but he managed to drive away unharmed.
“On the N11 in Engogo, one truck was burnt. Two more trucks were set alight on the N2 in Empangeni where armed men attacked and robbed the two drivers on Monday,” he said.
Cele added that KZN police are investigating a case of armed robbery, malicious damage to property and attempted murder.
He said nine trucks had been torched in Mpumalanga where the latest incident took place on the N2 in the early hours of Wednesday morning between Ermelo and Sheepmore, where four trucks were attacked and set alight.
Five trucks were also set alight on Sunday evening on the N4 near Waterval Boven.
“Police in that province are following up on strong leads,” Cele said.
In the early hours of Monday morning, three trucks heading to the local chrome mine along the R577 between Lydenburg and Sekhukhune in Limpopo were attacked and burnt by six armed men.
Cele said police investigations so far point towards an ongoing labour dispute and service delivery issues in the Lydenburg mining belt, and arrests are imminent.
Cele also said that there had been no attacks on trucks in the Free State and Gauteng.
“In the Free State, on Monday, a truck experienced mechanical failure and caught fire. The driver escaped unharmed. In a second incident, a truck capsized and burst into flames. The driver of that vehicle is recovering in hospital.”
Cele said there had been incorrect media reports of attacks on two trucks in Gauteng.
However, the trucks had been involved in accidents.
“One truck carrying flammable cargo had a burst tyre and capsized and burst into flames while driving on the R59. In the second incident, a driver lost control and the truck overturned on the N12, causing the trailer to catch fire.
“Both truck drivers escaped unharmed.”
Cele said the police had put a plan of action in place and were on high alert to prevent further attacks.
“No matter the motive, the country’s law enforcement remains on high alert and is hard at work at preventing more attacks but also finding these individuals or gangs of thugs hell-bent on causing havoc on our roads,” Cele said.
“The South African Police Service has heightened police visibility and is leaving nothing to chance in all provinces.
“All major routes have been secured and regular patrols are being conducted along identified high-risk routes.”
Cele reiterated that there was no evidence that this week’s attacks on the logistics sector were linked to the July 2021 civil unrest.
“This week marks two years since we saw mass looting, acts of arson and wanton destruction in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng province, where 354 people lost their lives as a result of the mayhem.
“As things stand, there is no evidence before us to suggest that the recent targeting of trucks is in any way related or linked to the July insurrection,” he said.
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