Jake’s Sunday Post theme……”Work.”

Jake’s Sunday Post theme on WordPress, this week, is ‘Work‘, and this got me thinking about our South African manual labourers, who one often sees being transported to work by their employers, in this fashion. I took this pic on our way up to Johannesburg a few weeks ago.

It  troubles me greatly, whenever I see these pick-up trucks, sometimes heavily laden with equipment, whilst the unfortunate workers, have to sit either on top of all this stuff, or around the sides of the truck, whilst it speeds on its way down the highway.

Yesterday, whilst driving back from the hospital, we were behind a vehicle which had large sheets of wood stacked on it, at an angle. The worker was lying across the wood, holding an unsecured upside-down wheelbarrow against it. This of course is highly dangerous, both for the man on the back, and people travelling behind, as should that wheelbarrow slip, it could fly off and go straight through the windscreen. If the truck driver had to brake hard, both the worker and the wheelbarrow would be thrown off. Of course we overtook as soon as it was safe to do so, and didn’t hang around to take a photo. I remember many years ago, hearing a news report, of a woman driver being tragically killed when a sewing machine came off the back of the ‘bakkie’ in front, and was projected through her windscreen.

Every week, there are so many reports of accidents, with maybe ten to fifteen people being injured or killed, when the two-seater vehicle on which they were being transported, was involved in an accident.
(pic from ‘Drive Alive’ site)
I just can’t understand why nothing is done to legislate against these contractors who have so little regard for the lives of the people who work for them. Not only that, but the traffic police turn a blind eye to this dangerous practice. I’ve seen police vans drive past these vehicles and their human cargo, and just ignore them. We, including the drivers of these vehicles, can be heavily fined if spotted not wearing seat belts in our cars, and there are campaigns to encourage us to always “belt up.” Motor cars are specifically designed for the conveyance of persons, and have all the modern safety devices, such as seat belts, air bags etc., but for people being carried in the goods section of trucks, there are no effective safety devices! How can that be? I’ve never seen this phenomenon in the UK, or in the USA. Could it be that the lives of our workers are considered cheap in Africa?

Have a great day, everyone. Chat again soon.



39 comments on “Jake’s Sunday Post theme……”Work.”

  1. There is a mentality of “Oh, the law doesn’t apply to me” or similar. And here in SA and maybe other thirdish world type counties is is more prevalent.
    Well, in the case of your second pic, the law of the land did not need to interfere as the Law of Nature stepped right up.

    • I also think that those people riding on the backs of trucks aren’t very aware of what might happen if the brakes need to be applied all of a sudden. I saw one only today, actually perched right on the edge of a bakkie, and not even holding on to anything. One bad pothole, and he’d be thrown off.

      • What’s even worse is when you come across bakkies with kiddies in the back. This really gets my goat.

      • I feel the same way, Ark. Saw one yesterday with half a dozen kids on the back. Of course the parents were sitting safely in the cab. ;(

  2. I have visited Zimbabwe a couple of times with my wife – we stayed on my mother-in-law’s farm. During our visits I used to drive the pick-up truck for her (which gave her a rest). It was the norm on the daily run into Chegutu to pick up farm workers along the route with each of them paying a small fare to my mother-in-law for the journey. There are no buses on the route so it was the only way for the workers to get about except for walking. I think the most people we ever carried was a dozen.

    • Hi there, and thanks for the visit. I think farm workers in rural areas are often transported like this. I just think it’s far more dangerous in the cities, when the trucks are bombing down the motorway at 100 kmph in heavy traffic.

  3. great entry, and so much to think about, how have we created a world with such inequalities …. the lives of the poor are not valued … profit is the only thing!

  4. As often, money is more important than human life. These men have to work to make a living. The contractors just care about getting the job done. It can be a harsh world.

  5. it is illegal, yet the cps don’t stop them, because if they throw them off, how will they get to work or home again. all very scary stuff

  6. Love your blog and have been following from afar since a mutual friend told me about you.

    We live (on opposite side of globe from Durban) where unskilled laborers gather to be hired as day laborers. Quite a few around here are Hispanic and may or may not be in the country legally. Not all are, however; some are local people down on their luck and for some reason unable to qualify for public assistance and will gather at a certain place (these places change) each morning in hope of a day job. One must applaud the willingness to work. It happens all over the world.

    Often the type of vehicle that you photographed will pull up and the driver (ideally bilingual) will speak to and gather several. The ones selected almost always use the type of transport you photographed, but occasionally the transport is in the form of a van (kombi).

    During heavy work load phases, extra people are hired to assist with building sites or farm chores and are waiting on a certain corner in the hope of being ‘chosen.’

    Having said that, however, let’s remember that it’s nothing new; it’s a system that has been in place since Biblical times, when Ruth and her mother in law lived by working in the fields, picking up bits of grain that the harvesters missed.

    The difference is proximity. Naomi and Ruth camped nearby and Boaz didn’t send a truck to fetch them — he didn’t have to. Not many farmers or construction concerns can afford to provide a luxury coach with seat belts and none of the workers can afford their own transport.

    School and city bus transport vehicles, commuter trains, and so on have no seat belts either, but at least the occupants are inside. Well, usually they are anyway but then there are trains in some parts of the world where the scene is not unlike that of a mother possum carrying her young.

    Still, you state your case very well. As always. What solution would you and other readers propose?


    • Hi Connie. Great to see you here. I remember you well. I see that the US has quite stringent rules about transporting workers on trucks. For example If a transport vehicle has open passenger areas, a rail or enclosure at least 46 inches high has to be be provided on the sides and back to prevent falls. “Employees may ride in the properly enclosed back of flat-bed trucks, pickups, or dump trucks only if they sit on the truck bed with the tailgate closed and secured. Two employees may be permitted to ride on beds of trucks if they stand or sit immediately behind the cab, holding on to suitable grab irons which are rigidly fastened to the truck.” Here, it seems that anything goes, and nothing is done about it, except for a bit of a public outcry when a tragedy happens. One wouldn’t expect a luxury coach for transporting workers, but at least something a lot safer than the ones I put in my post. I guess not much will change though, which is sad for those who will get injured or killed in the future.

  7. In Pittsburgh, Pa there is a place called Labor Ready where workers gather on a daily basic in hopes of getting work for the day. The employer gathers them up and transports them to a job site. I don’t know how or what type of transportation is provided but I do know hard manual labor is the work they are given and the pay is cheap.


    • It’s much the same here, Francine. We have hoards of unemployed men looking for any day job they can get. I feel so heart-sore for them.

    • Actually quite a few things have changed for the worse, over the past few years Tilly, especially the policing of our roads, and the attitude of our drivers. ;(

  8. Here and perhaps in a lot of third world countries, ALL life is cheap. Can you believe fastening seat belts is still not mandatory in several states in India?

  9. I agree AD, human beings should not have to travel in such a dangerous way. As an aside we have quite a history of things falling off the back of bakkies in front of us. The first incident was a bundle of tent pegs which fortunately only damaged the front no. plate and spoiler. Next was a 2 seater couch that tumbled off the back of a bakkie crossing Swartvlei in Sedgefield. The most nervewracking was travelling along the N2 near Caledon behind a bakkie loaded with what looked like kitchen cupboard units secured with thin webbing straps. Also on the back of the bakkie was a man and a young boy. The man stood up and grabbed onto the webbing which snapped and he slipped over the tailgate one leg dragging along the road, the other hooked over the tailgate at the knee and hanging on for dear life. The young boy tried to climb around the stuff on the back to alert the driver who was going about 100 km/h. It took about 1.5 km before we could pass safely and alert the driver to the problem. Music was blaring from the cab so no wonder he was not aware of having almost lost one of his passengers. Thankfully the chap who almost fell off seemed OK when they finally stopped. But I hate to think what might have happened had he let go and we had not been able to stop in time.!

    • I rest my case, optie. 😉 Those are very scary incidents indeed. Some people are so unaware of the danger they pose to other road users. It makes me so angry. ;(

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