Taxi industry sorts out truck queue at Lebombo

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In scenes reminiscent of vigilantism following the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma, when the minibus taxi industry prevented looting in some areas, the eastbound truck queue at South Africa’s Lebombo border into Mozambique was sorted out over the weekend – by taxi bosses.

According to two confidential sources, one from the Lowveld logistics community and another a businessperson based in Komatipoort, there were no trucks on the N4 Maputo Corridor this morning, July 3.

The logistics contact said “a local taxi association got together recently and sorted out the queue.

“From what we know, trucks were stopped about 10 kilometres from the border and forced to form a queue. Apparently one of the trucks got a tyre shot out, presumably because it was trying to jump the queue.

“Of course, it’s not ideal to get things done this way, but it’s not like the police would’ve done it any differently. They may not shoot at trucks but try to prevent drivers from jumping the queue by deflating their tyres.

“It’s a real shame that we have to rely on crime to fight crime, but it seems to be working.”

The source said that the weekend’s vigilantism showed that the bottlenecking at the border, frequently caused by cargo processing delays at the transit itself, in turn causing trucks heading to the Port of Maputo to queue for four to five days, could be sorted out if traffic build-up was regulated through adequate law enforcement.

“But for some time we have suspected that police and traffic officers are on the take, so there’s no real benefit for them to sort out the queue because then there’s no bribery in it for them.”

The businessperson from Komatipoort, who also requested anonymity, said more or less the same.

“The taxi industry clearly got fed up with the whole situation. About two weeks ago, one of the local taxi associations got together and decided to sort things out because the cops aren’t going to. A local community association from Orlando (on the outskirts of Komati) also decided to take a stand as their community has been hit hard by crime directly related to the queue.”

He said that tsotsis (opportunistic criminals) hit the queue of trucks at night and retreat into Orlando to hide out, cause more mayhem, and prey on community members.

“We also know of a gang in Mozambique who come through, targeting cross-border taxis caught up in the traffic. They hold drivers and passengers up at gunpoint, pull women from taxis and rape them in the bushes, and little if anything gets done by law enforcers.

“So clearly the taxi bosses decided to step in to do something about it.”

A clearing agent in Komatipoort told Freight News in June that the crime at night in the queue was so bad police were too scared to do anything lest they got held up and robbed of their service weapons.

The agent said a recent incident of truck-related crime went unreported because when they arrived at the local police station, the main gate was padlocked.

From video footage seen this morning, presumably taken over the weekend, a bakkie (pick-up) can be seen driving past trucks and instructing drivers in Zulu from a speaker system mounted on the back, asking them to stick to the left-hand side of the road.

  • Freight News will be visiting Komatipoort later this week to get a better idea of what’s happening at the border. Any industry role players or business leaders who would like to assist with insights or information, please email Eugene Goddard at [email protected]

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