Fears of sabotage in S Africa as truck arson attacks increase

South African police reported on Wednesday that a total of 21 trucks have been set on fire in a series of perplexing attacks, which President Cyril Ramaphosa has characterized as acts of “economic sabotage.”

Unidentified attackers ignited four trucks in the province of Mpumalanga, located in the northeast of South Africa on Wednesday. These incidents have raised alarm among transport operators and businesses due to the ongoing string of similar events.

“We know that these are not just random acts of criminality but organised,” Police Minister Bheki Cele told a press conference in Pretoria.

According to the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), approximately 80 percent of all goods in South Africa are transported via trucks.

South Africa holds a significant position as a major exporter of minerals and agricultural products, with its ports serving as crucial gateways to Europe, Asia, and America for goods and raw materials sourced from various African countries.

The attacks started on Sunday, coinciding with the second anniversary of the July 2021 riots.

Riots, which initially involved the torching of trucks, escalated into widespread violence, making it the most severe bout of unrest witnessed in South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994.

But Cele said at the moment there was no evidence linking the recent arsons to the deadly 2021 unrest which claimed over 350 lives.

Truck attacks occurred across three provinces, targeting key transport routes within the country.

According to Jack Mazibuko, the secretary general of SATAWU, the drivers were forcefully removed from their vehicles at gunpoint by the assailants, who subsequently set the trucks on fire.

No arrests have been made so far but police have identified 12 persons of interest, Cele said.

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