62 arrested as N3 Van Reenen’s blockade cleared

Sixty-two people have been arrested as the N3 at Van Reenen's pass was reopened after a blockade by truck drivers on Wednesday closed the national route, KwaZulu-Natal police said on Thursday.

"They will be charged with public violence and obstructing traffic," spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele told News24. The truck blockade on the N3 at Van Reenen's pass had caused a backup kilometres long. The N3 Toll Concession Company (N3TC) said it was cleared by Thursday morning. "We are very, very pleased to confirm that it [the N3 at Van Reenen's pass] has been reopened," said N3TC spokesperson Con Roux. Roux said work continued throughout the night to clear the highway because some drivers had allegedly tampered with their air brake systems, making it unsafe to move their vehicles. Special rigs had to be brought in to take the heavy trucks off the road. Although the route is open again, driving could be slow as the massive tailback of trucks moves out, combined with the extra traffic of the motorists who had delayed travelling between Durban and Johannesburg during Wednesday's blockade. Transport Minister Blade Nzimande likened the blockade of national routes to "sabotage" on Wednesday. His spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi told News24 that Police Minister Bheki Cele was asked to send help to clear the road. A provincial department of transport official was also sent to the scene to establish what the drivers' grievances were. It was established that the issue was around the employment of foreign drivers at lower rates, raising the potential for exploitation. The labour department will be asked to look into this. The matter has already been raised by the South African Transport and Allied Workers' Union, which said on Wednesday its members were not party to the blockade, but it had told its bargaining council about it. Comment was not immediately available from the blockade organisers. Nzimande is expecting a full report on the blockade and arrests soon, and will provide further information once he has read it. Mnisi said the aggrieved drivers were advised to raise their issues through official channels, instead of protesting without permission. DM