Zimbabwean truck drivers living and working in South Africa say they fear being attacked by anti-immigrant groups who accuse them of stealing trucking jobs from South Africans.
Richard Mudhara, a Zimbabwean truck driver working in Johannesburg, told GroundUp in an interview that he was abducted on 2 March a few kilometres from Durban by three men.
He said his abductors told him they were with the All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF) and Operation Dudula.
Mudhara alleged that the men had stopped his truck, smashed the windows and forced him out.
They then tied him up and held him at gunpoint in bushes while his truck was driven away. Said Mudhara:
My mind was racing. They told me they were after truck drivers from Zimbabwe.
They told me to comply or be killed so I prayed for them to let me live.
… I prayed for them to let me live because some who found themselves in similar circumstances, were reported dead.
He said his life was saved when the gunman received a phone call and left him there.
The drivers, with Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) permits, claim that rogue police are also extorting them for cash.
However, Operation Dudula, a rising anti-immigrant, vigilante-like group has distanced itself from the attacks.
Zandile Dabula, Operation Dudula’s secretary-general said they don’t fight people, but the government, adding that the movement was yet to focus on the trucking sector.
Not only Zimbabwean drivers are under attack, but other immigrant drivers from Zambia and Malawi are also targeted by xenophobic groups.
Vusimusi Sibanda from the African Diaspora Global Network claimed that 15 immigrant truck drivers were reported to have been killed over the past three years. He said:
People who attacked these truck drivers were not arrested, which is why we have more vigilante groups such as Operation Dudula and the ATDF.
Lives were lost and trucks were destroyed yet no one was ever held accountable and even the government has not done anything to stop these attacks.
Sibanda said the Network was pushing for SAPS and the SA government to intervene in the attacks against immigrant truck drivers.
SAPS spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Robert Netshiunda told GroundUp that they have made several arrests linked to attacks on truck drivers.
Netshiunda urged drivers to report any corrupt activities so that police can investigate them.
He said criminals are behind the spate of attacks on truck drivers three months ago and the attacks had nothing to do with vigilante groups.