Truckers vs SANCATDRA: it’s a war!

Truckers vs SANCATDRA: it’s a war!

An organisation called the South African National Cargo Transport Drivers Association (SANCATDRA) appears to be targeting certain South African transport companies. It is alleged that two have already closed down – thanks to a campaign of harassment.

The two companies that have closed – Bogdans Transport and Elf Trans – tell an ominously similar tale of harassment and violence, which ultimately culminated in both companies closing their doors.

Bogdans – which ran 90 trucks and specialised in dry bulk and tipper transportation – was the first to close early in October. It issued a statement, claiming that it – along with Elf Trans, Summit Vervoer, LTD Transport and Hilton Logistics – had been targeted by SANCATDRA and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). In the statement, it alleged that the “illegal stoppages, destruction of property and interference of customers have caused losses of millions of rands within the industry. As Bogdans Transport is a member of the industry’s Bargaining Council and has had no previous strikes nor grievances raised by employees or any outside parties, we can state that the current strike action is definitely an approach by EFF and SANCATDRA union to bring the construction industry within South Africa to a standstill.

“Bogdans Transport is currently consulting with relevant individuals and companies to remedy the situation. But with the strike action still taking place and threats spread to Bogdans Transport and its management by the EFF and SANCATRA we have no option but to close the company down and stop its operations with immediate effect.”

Death threats

Just days later, Elf Trans – which operated 51 truck tractors with a diversified fleet of trailers (39 dry bulk tankers, four liquid tankers, four flat deck super links and four small tippers) – announced that it too would close. “We are forced to close down due to the continuous harassment of an unregistered union SANCATDRA,” said Andre Diedericks, the company’s owner. “There have been numerous death threats to myself and staff members, trucks have been set on fire, there have been work stoppages, the closing of customers’ premises and riots with police shooting teargas.”

Diedericks says the association made a number of demands, including that the drivers should take control of the business, no white staff should be employed, and drivers had to be paid R9 900 a week.

Truck drivers “should be nationalised”

If the transport operators’ claims are true (and we can neither confirm nor deny this), it sounds like the association is waging a war of terror on the transport industry. But what is SANCATDRA?

While the association has only hit the headlines of late, it’s been around since at least 2017 (that’s when its Facebook page was created). Its website says that it wants to “return dignity to our truck drivers”. Its main objectives and mandates include the call to the South African government to “nationalise” South African truck drivers, ensuring that truck drivers’ rights are respected and adhered to, and that the exploitation of drivers by their employers should cease.

SANCATDRA’s other objectives are “to ensure that drivers get enough time to rest, earn a better living wage, that the drivers get all the necessary subsistence and allowances due to them whenever they are away from home, and to demand that [the] kilometre and load system be forever abolished with immediate effect”.

The association’s activities are quite broad. “Our aim is to keep our members happy by maintaining a healthy relationship between employee and employer. Protecting the rights of our members is our first priority. We offer legal advice and services to our members. We also offer our members in the trucking industry the right to have medical coverage, as we believe that basic healthcare is a human right, and rightly so, should be made available to all our members. Furthermore, we offer our members the right to additional knowledge in the workplace to enhance their skills and spectrum,” its site states.

There are no qualifications necessary to become a member of the organisation; you just need to fill out a membership form and pay a joining fee of R150. The membership form also states that you need to authorise SANCATDRA to deduct 1% of your basic salary or to debit R150 from your account, whichever is greater. We have asked SANCATDRA about these charges. We have also queried its number of members and affiliation to the EFF. Once the comments are received, this article will be updated.

SANCATDRA is “non-violent”

Daniel Mofokeng, the association’s president, did however provide us with a written statement on what it terms the “faked closure” of Elf Trans, Bogdans and Allbulk Transport. (As a matter of record, Allbulk has not closed down.) In this statement (which only covers events at Elf Trans) it notes – in stark contrast to claims by Elf Trans and Bogdans – that “SANCATDRA is a non-violent, non-racial, non-sexist and non-xenophobic organisation”.

“We believe in the power of collective bargaining and its processes in order to settle matters amicably amongst the parties. We are advocating for 100% compliance with the main collective agreement of the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry (NBCRFLI) and all the other labour statutes. We are 100% against the exploitation of the South African truck drivers both physically, emotionally and otherwise.”

The statement contains some extremely serious allegations against Elf Trans. These include:

• Employees at the company were subjected to all sorts of ill-treatment, unfair labour practices, unfair dismissals, underpayments and non-compliance with the main collective agreement of the NBCRFLI

• The employees, particularly the drivers, were paid from as little as R2 000 to R2 500 per week, which is beyond the national minimum wage of R2 775,23 per week

• No overtime, Sunday work and subsistence allowances were paid to the drivers

• The company was using “an illegal incentive scheme” to remunerate its employees

• Elf Trans was sold to Innovative Staffing Solutions (ISS) and “affected employees” were issued with letters of dismissal for participating in an illegal strike.

We approached ISS and asked for comment on the last of the allegations. The sale was categorically denied. “Elf Trans contracted the services of ISS, as its staff-outsourcing service provider, to manage its drivers and the associated logistics. Before ISS assumed the role, Elf Trans was already beleaguered by illegal strikes. All illegal strikers were dismissed. However, due to SANCATDRA’s interference in Elf’s operations, many clients withdrew their agreements with Elf Trans, which has subsequently been forced to shut down its business. ISS did not buy Elf Trans nor was the intention to buy Elf Trans ever expressed,” a spokesman for the company told us.

We also asked Elf Trans for comment on these allegations, which Diedericks has denied. “Our drivers were clearing R5 700 per week after deductions,” he told us. “Initially, SANCATDRA was happy with this. But then they moved the goalposts – and demanded R9 900 per week.”

So, were the transport operators at fault or is SANCATDRA adopting an unnecessarily heavy-handed approach? The answer to this question will vary – depending on which party you’re asking. But one thing is certain: the outcome of this incredibly messy situation has been lots of job losses – which is precisely what this country does not need.

Published by

Charleen Clarke

CHARLEEN CLARKE is editorial director of FOCUS. While she is based in Johannesburg, she spends a considerable amount of time overseas, attending international transport events – largely in her capacity as associate member of the International Truck of the Year Jury.
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