Durban - Striking truck drivers continued to protest violently and stone vehicles on Thursday amid negotiations for increased wages.
About 20 000 workers in the road freight transport sector have been on strike since Monday.
Crompton and Kings roads in Pinetown were closed by public order policing officers in the early afternoon after a group of about 250 angry drivers began throwing stones at passing vehicles.
Later in the afternoon, another group became rowdy at Maydon Wharf and harassed non-striking truck drivers, causing one of them to crash into a tree. He was not seriously injured.
When the police arrived at the scene the strikers scattered.
Metro Police spokesman Eugene Msomi said the day had been “fairly quiet” up until the point where the Pinetown strikers got out of hand.
“The SAPS had to close the roads to try to negotiate with [the strikers],” Msomi said.
Reports that a man had been stoned to death outside the Pinetown library were denied by the SAPS and the Metro Police.
In Ekurhuleni, east of Joburg, vehicles were stoned and burned, prompting Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to speak out in anger about the strikers’ actions.
“We are monitoring the situation and, frankly, what we have been observing is pure criminality,” he said.
In a statement on Thursday, he said acts of violence and intimidation were not justified and that the police would act harshly to quell such lawlessness.
Cosatu also urged strikers to remain calm. Spokesman Patrick Craven said on Thursday that he hoped employers would return to the negotiating table as soon as possible.
The Professional Transport and Allied Workers’ Union confirmed that the situation remained unchanged on Thursday, with unions discussing among themselves what the next step should be.
The unions are continuing to press for a 12 percent increase after rejecting a lower offer tabled by employers on Tuesday. The Road Freight Employers’ Association proposed a staggered increase of 8.5 percent effective from March, and a further 0.5 percent from September next year. The association and the unions are expected to meet on Friday to resume talks.
Meanwhile, the SA Petroleum Industry Association said it had contingency measures in place should the Road Freight Sector strike affect the supply of fuel to retail service stations. - The Mercury