Five Zimbabwean haulage truck drivers working for J&J Africa Transport are said to be missing in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after an industrial strike that they started last week turned violent.
J&J general manager Vikram Singh said his company is aware of the situation in the DRC and that they are trying by all means to bring back the situation to normal.
“Sorry for replying your questions late. We have been very busy all day. We are aware of the issues and we are doing our utmost to resolve them with our drivers,” said Singh.
Other drivers were allegedly apprehended by the Police and fined between US$50 and US$220.
J&J, one of the largest haulage trucking and logistics companies on the Beira corridor employs 400 Zimbabwean drivers and 210 of them who were either waiting to load minerals at Mutanda Mine in DRC or at Kasumbalesa Border Post are on strike.
The drivers are striking over a health risk allowance of US$500 which they claim was not paid since December last year. The drivers transport some dangerous substances.
The drivers transport sulphur from Beira to Mutanda Mine, the biggest cobalt mine in the world. On their return trip to Beira in Mozambique they carry copper and cobalt hydroxide.
An internal message in the drivers’ group gleaned by The Mirror says J&J management went into panic mode when the drivers parked their more than 200 vehicles thereby disrupting delivery schedules.
They allegedly attempted to involve DRC Police and some hooligans to attack the drivers and push them into returning to work. The attacks saw drivers abandoning vehicles and running away into the forests hence the missing drivers.
J&J assistant general manager, Albert Bere also confirmed the situation on Tuesday but called back the same night after the story came out and attacked the reporter for publishing it. He blocked the reporter’s mobile number when the reporter called trying to understand his issues.
When called by another phone yesterday, Bere said he did not know the person that The Mirror was looking for.
A driver who spoke to The Mirror said they are regrouping on the Zambian border to establish how many fellow drivers are missing.
“We have communicated in our drivers’ WhatsApp group that all drivers come to the Zambian side so that we can make a head count and get the actual figure of those missing.
Three drivers were apprehended and made to pay fines of between US$50 and US$220 by DRC officials.
“The company directors and management are ruthless because they are not concerned with our health, but their business only. We have so far lost two drivers to lung diseases that are caused by the dangerous substances that we carry. How can a man a manager hire thugs to attack his subordinates?
“We are baffled that someone who is a chairperson of Transport Operators Association of Zimbabwe (TOAZ) and signatory at the Bargaining Council of Zimbabwe can treat his workers like that?” he said.