CTIP is a joint project of the LCCL and SACBC

Evangelisation / Education Along the Road (Truck Drivers and Road Security) by Archbishop Buti Tlhagale OMI




In the “New Evangelisation” Pope Benedict  stresses the importance to study and to encourage the use of modern forms of communication as instruments for the new evangelization. Already in December, 2000, he, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, speaking to catechists stressed the fact of:

A progressive process of de-Christianization and the loss of essential human values, which is worrisome. A large part of today’s humanity does not find the Gospel in the permanent evangelization of the Church.That is to say, the convincing response to the question: How to live?…….For some, the Church has stopped telling people what they need to hear – therefore, the need for a New Evangelization.

In this study we shall deal more specifically with what is happening on our roads, paying attention to both the plight of truck drivers and to accidents on the road – both of which are worrisome and endanger our humanity and dignity. We do this in the context of the urgent need to educate and evangelise society with regard to our moral obligation to value, respect and safeguard life.

The study is divided into two parts. Part One deals with  the reality of truck drivers on our roads; What is the Church doing to assist truck drivers? What can we as Church do to accompany truck drivers along the road?  Part Two deals with the reality of road security in Africa & Madagascar; What has the Church being doing in its exhortation to preserve lives on our roads? What can the Church do to safeguard life on our roads?

Part One

1.    The reality facing Truckers today

Perhaps we seldom think of truckers on our roads or the fact that they often face hard and gruelling hours, many covering very long distances and having to endure prolonged intervals of loneliness. It is they who face some of the most difficult challenges on our roads, at times resulting in psychological effects, not only for themselves but for their families too.

Firstly, we might ask ourselves who are the Truckers? They are usually men who are employed by a trucking company for long distance/transnational or short distance carrying of goods and the like.  They are often married men who have sons and daughters and who could be away from home for weeks or months. There are those among them who find it difficult to resist the temptation of loneliness at stopover points, demarcated places, truck- stops, near motels or indeed anywhere and often near border posts. Long-distance truckers spend most of their time travelling across dangerous and remote highways. Not only do they face exhaustion and boredom but health problems, road accidents, attacks, and mechanical failures. With the long working hours there is little rest and high insecurity. Very often truckers are actually foreigners to a particular country, which means extensive cross-border driving.

The Stress Factor in Truckers
Contributions to stress are factors such as separation from spouses, the disruption of socio-cultural norms, the lack of access to health information and services, and the poor social support systems. Trips are often made longer by administrative delays, especially at border crossings. In Zimbabwe, for example, truckers may get stuck 14 days at the border while waiting for documents to be processed.

According to Ntozi et al, truckers seek commercial female company and engage in sexual activity in order to reduce their stress.[i] Hard work and daily physical risks are also believed to reinforce the truckers’ culture of masculinity that promotes toughness, and a sense of invincibility and fatalism. As a result, drivers are likely to see HIV as a very distant threat compared to more immediate dangers they face in their jobs.

Strong connection between Truckers and Road Prostitution

No matter where “truck-stop girls” seem to be available in overnight hubs. It is a phenomenon practically in all continents -hence the risk of HIV/AIDS among truckers. It is a fact that long-distance truck drivers have also long been implicated in the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa. They were studied early on in the epidemic, particularly in Kenya and Uganda. Surveys carried out along highways from 1989 to 2005 found high rates of HIV infection in the long-distance truck driving population.

Sexual Cultures among long-distance drivers

Truckers have been found to participate in vigorous sexual cultures at road settlements and border crossings. Transient residents include poor, often young women from rural hinterland. Through sex for payment or kind many of these women have multiple partners and such drivers have spread HIV/AIDS widely through rural highways of the African AIDS Belt.[ii]  Entertainment facilities for truckers are very limited and they are often only male. Alcohol and commercial sex are generally the only recreational options. Stopover sites may become HIV-transmission “hotspots.”  Morris &Ferguson (2005) showed that up to 80% of female communities living in selected truck stops along the Mombasa – Kampala highway are commercial sex workers.[iii]

It has also been found that condom use is inconsistent because of lack of time or availability, dislike of condoms or stigma attached to HIV. Truckers who engage with regular clients are not using condoms and the girl friends of truckers have other regular partners on other nights of the week. Sex workers also may be the only source of accommodation, or are cheaper than hotels.[iv] Ramjee (2002) reported an overall HIV prevalence of 56% among a sample of 320 long-distance truck drivers visiting commercial sex workers at five stopover sites in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The HIV prevalence was higher among individuals aged between 45 and 49 years.[v]

Bar attendants have been found to be one of most vulnerable groups to sexually transmitted infections in Africa. Studies in Northern Tanzania, South Africa, and Ethiopia found high HIV prevalence rates among women selling alcohol.[vi] Other research showed 50% HIV prevalence rate among a group of 1,330 female brew sellers, bar attendants, and petty traders working in seven roadside settlements in Tanzania. East and Southern Africa showed that female street traders engage in commercial sex with truckers.[vii]

Interventions targeting drivers and sex workers

Community-based interventions in Tanzania were operating since at least 1990. The second oldest seems to be an industry-wide company-based programme which began in Zimbabwe in 1992 similar to the approach and experiences of the Tanzanian programme. Company-based intervention in Mombasa, Kenya began in 1993.[viii] Programmes included:

  • Peer educators training among barmaids, bar owners and health workers
  • billboard placing along main roads
  • effective monitoring and support of peer educators across Tanzania

The peer educators worked directly with the sex workers in the communities where they operated, often small roadside settlements with little infrastructure or government presence and where truck drivers spend the night. They introduced and tried to sustain the use of condoms. It proved difficult to reinforce condom use among Tanzanian transport workers. Drivers seeking condoms were mainly from Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda and Burundi where information on HIV and AIDS was available.

Three main areas in which drivers may resist behavioural change are:

  • sexual health-seeking behaviour because of the stigma associated with attending an STD clinic,
  • condom use, and
  • the number of partners

East African culture was found to be more resistant to condom use than in Zimbabwe. There were various reasons given: AIDS is believed to be due to witchcraft. Resistance to reducing partner numbers seems everywhere more profound than resistance to condom use. Notions of partnership including sexual equality and fidelity is not present in the African male dominated culture. Truckers’ girlfriends on route are an essential component of their  network.[ix] What is very unfortunate is how society subscribes no particular virtue to male sexual abstinence.

Because so many truckers have died of HIV/AIDS certain trucking companies’ associations or others have more recently created a number of “Wellness Centres” on their truck routes. At a busy border crossing between Malawi and Mozambique, for example, from two containers in the truckers’ car park Dr. Cleofas Magwira and counsellor Madison Mulinga were available to drivers waiting for a few hours or even days for their documents to be cleared by customs before crossing into Mozambique. There are now 5 recreational centres (containers) placed along routes in Kenya.

Truckers : consumers of  trafficked girls

There is a link between prostitution and human trafficking. Sometimes, women offering commercial sex at truck-stops are there independently and are not under the control of a pimp. However, victims under the control of a pimp have been found in a number of trafficking cases at truck-stops.

Truckers involved in Human Trafficking

Truckers are also found to be part of a sex industry ring. Young women looking for lifts can easily end up being trafficked. Lifts are often from rural to the city in Africa or from ports to big cities. Usually traffickers force girls and young women to sell sex to men in parked trucks. We know that prostitution becomes trafficking when the victim is not only a minor but when a controller uses force, fraud and/or coercion to maintain control over the victim and to cause him/her to engage in commercial sex.  The U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009 states: “Traffickers most often operate through ad hoc, flexible networks of relatives, truck drivers, business people, cross-border traders, and religious leaders.”[x]

2. What is the Church doing re-education/evangelisation of truckers?

Truck drivers started to come into focus in the last decade or so in the Church’s efforts in Africa and Madagascar to stem the tide of HIV/AIDS. The campaigns we have against Human Trafficking are only now beginning to target truck drivers. The plight of truckers and the need for the pastoral care of long-distance truck drivers has hardly come to the attention of the Church until now.

3. What can we as Church do to accompany truck drivers on the roads?

In any pastoral care of truckers some important areas need to be considered. A most important area is the stress with which truckers have to cope. Some of the pitfalls for truckers are, as we have seen, prostitution, consumers of trafficked victims and human trafficking itself. It is important to note that sexual cultures are most likely to continue as long as there is little social space for change.

Social Space and HIV Risk Reduction Intervention could include:

  • Free Roadside Tea Parlours with STD clinics combined to decrease sexual behaviour and insulate drivers from sex workers
  • The  Free Tea Parlours in India are an example of how to overcome stigma and inconvenience.
  • Such places could  be a component of a different social space created for drivers especially as part of partner reduction interventions
  • Have Community based interventions targeting truck drivers and sex workers
  • Profitable enterprises to fulfil basic needs of drivers

Profitable Enterprises to fulfil basic needs of drivers could preferably be focused within one single space and where commercial sex and drugs are not allowed. Free tea parlours, for example, could also  provide meals. Another enterprise could provide accommodation such as lounge rooms: another ammenities to wash clothes, have showers and shaving facilities. Others could provide ATMs, phones and entertainment, and fuel and repair station.

Methods to use as regards human trafficking intervention

  • Use existing centres for wellness programmes to educate on human trafficking, child prostitution etc such as the new centre at a busy border crossing between Malawi and Mozambique  mentioned earlier.
  • We need to provide information on human trafficking as well as the medical advice to the truckers in transit. At such centres it would also mean  having material handouts, video clips etc on human trafficking.
  • It would also mean getting our trucking-industries – to  make   information and training  on human trafficking as part of its orientation for all its  truck drivers.
  • Give information and training  at truckstops, to employees at motels, to students of private and public truck-driving schools.
  • Hand out wallet cards (and other materials) to members of the trucking industry who have been educated about human trafficking, so that when human trafficking is suspected, they can call the national hotline number on the card. It can be done in various places like toll gates also. This is also part of the U.S campaign which seems to get remarkable progress.
  • Put coasters/ beer mats at resturants near truck stop points. The beer mats could be used at the Truck Stops, or simply handed out or used at the shebeens/ restaurants/ motels that are near truck stops. Trucks also often have separate toll gates – the coasters could be handed out there too.
  • Partnering with law enforcement to facilitate the investigation of human trafficking.
  • Countries in each region have all the national hotline numbers on their handouts as truckers cross borders often.

Get our trucking-industries to make information on HIV/AIDS and training on human trafficking as part of its orientation for all its truck drivers eg:

  • Use testimonies
  • Truckers to be involved in the design of materials
  • Employers to have photo frames on dashboards for pictures of wives and family of driver
  • (One company in South Africa has taken the initiative to allow the truckers to take their wives with them on the long haul trips)

National AIDS Prevention Programmes to include:

  • Services to cover migration corridors
  • Billboards
  • Mobile video units
  • Radio
  • Oral and viral material
  • banners, stickers, posters
  • Involve Governments, agencies, unions
  • Governments to simplify administrative procedures at borders

Promoting adherence to moral values

It is good to encourage discussion about sexuality with wives and sex workers. Peer support group is also very important. At the same time Truckers need to be reminded that prostitution is exploitation of  persons. It violates the human dignity of all involved not to speak of  trafficking- a hideous crime that destroys life. Our Catholic Truckers  need to be reminded of the social and moral teachings of the church and the strong statements issued about fundamental human values.

Pope John Paul II stated in 2002:

The trade in human persons constitutes a shocking offense against human dignity and a grave violation of fundamental human rights. Already the Second Vatican Council had pointed to ‘slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, and disgraceful working conditions where people are treated as instruments of gain rather than free and responsible persons as ‘infamies’ which  poison human society, debase their perpetrators  and constitute a supreme dishonour to the Creator’ (Gaudium et Spes, 27). Such situations are an affront to  fundamental values, which are shared by all cultures and peoples.[xi]

Attention to the Spiritual needs of Truckers

Provision of Church services for truckers near border posts should be part of our pastoral action.

It is important to get to know who is a truck driver in your parish/community and have a special blessing for truck drivers before they leave on a long journey. The Church in an area could supply a booklet to truckers which  would include the names of churches along their route, phone numbers of priests or chaplains of truck drivers and times of church services etc. Give support to the wives of truckers and the truckers wives’ associations where possible.

Part Two

1. The reality of road security in Africa & Madagascar

What do we see on our roads apart from numerous accidents?

  • driving under the influence of alcohol
  • breakneck speed
  • non-use of helmets,
  • un-roadworthy vehicles
  • use of mobile phones when driving
  • overloading in trucks, taxis, bakies
  • roads in disrepair
  • potholes

Data provided by World Health Organisation (WHO) on roads in 2007 is shocking. There are 1.2 million deaths a year and 20 – 50 million are injured or disabled, 90% of road traffic deaths occurred in low income and middle-income countries, where  81% of the world’s population live and own about 20% of the  world’s vehicles. The WHO African Region actually had the  highest number of deaths among the  Low-income and middle- income countries and which owns about 2% – 4% of the world’s vehicles.

  • African Region 28.3
  • Region of the Americas 16.2
  • South-East Asia Region 18.6
  • European Region 17.4
  • Eastern Mediterranean Region 26.4
  • Western Pacific Region 18.5

In the early years of the new millennium, nearly 3,000 people were killed on Kenyan roads annually. This translates to approximately 68 deaths per 1,000 registered vehicles, which is 30-40 times greater than in highly motorized countries.

There have been strong warnings from WHO which says that road traffic deaths are predicted to increase by: 83% in low-income and middle-income countries (if no major action is taken), and to decrease by 27% in high-income countries. Overall global increase is predicted to be 67% by 2020 if no appropriate action is taken.

Apart from South Africa, unfortunately long-distance passenger rail services are in decline over the last 30 years and have become a significant financial burden to several rail concessions. Highways were improved as a result of economic liberalisation but there is the burden of maintenance. Most of Africa’s 48 countries face serious infrastructure challenges. We need better access to roads in rural areas as this is critical to raising agricultural productivity. It is apparent that Africa’s cities are growing rapidly but as the World Bank says: “they groan under the mobility problems because of too few paved roads and inadequate public transportation systems.”[xii] Road traffic injuries are a growing public health and development problem. The problem will only become worse if no appropriate action is taken now.

Forms of Transport for Low Income groups in Africa

There are three main forms of public transport which are ill suited for rural Africa, according to  the WHO AFRICA REPORT, 2007 – but are said to saturate the transport market.

(i)    The auto rickshaw is a three-wheel motorised vehicle common throughout Asia and Africa. -a very basic design with bench seating for three passengers.

(ii)  Minivans are one of the most common forms of privatised public transport in Africa. Originating from Japan and Dubai as an 8-person vehicle, once in Africa they become heavily decorated and are licensed to carry up to 14 people.

(iii)  Motorbikes in Africa largely comprise Chinese and Indian imports – can be purchased for as   little as $1,000 . Motorbikes are ubiquitous throughout Africa and drivers do not always wear helmets and if they do the one or two or three passengers they are carrying behind are seldom seen wearing helmets. They provide point to point transportation.

Motorbikes are affordable but incredibly unsafe on degraded rural roads and cannot carry many passengers or goods. Minivans are unaffordable to most local entrepreneurs; do not provide point-to-point transport; are too infrequent a service. Auto rickshaws are very successful in urban areas where they offer short-haul transport to the local community but are too impractical to operate in rural environments and remain focused in towns and cities.

More than half of all global road traffic deaths occur among young adults 15 – 44yrs and 73% of all global road traffic fatalities are males. In 2007 alone over 234 700 people were estimated to have died on roads in the African Region, most of them aged between 5 and 44 years. This constitutes one fifth (20%) of all the road deaths in that year worldwide, yet, as we said earlier, the region has only a little over 2% of the world’s vehicles. Pedestrians, users of two or three-wheelers, and passengers using public transportation are at increased risk of death or severe injuries following road traffic crashes.

Reasons expressed for lack of political commitment are important to note:

  • Countries in Africa face severe problems in many sectors of society so there is a general shortage of resources to solve these problems.
  • Road accidents are not yet a great public health problem when other sectors have severe problems.
  • Within the transport sector, the political attention is focused more on solving the transport problems rather than on the accident problem.
  • People think that road accidents only happen to people who behave recklessly.
  • Politicians need support from the people because lack of demand for road safety action, combined with strong opposition from pressure groups against restrictions, makes it difficult for politicians to act.
  • Another reason may be that the real costs of road accidents and the potential benefits from countermeasures are not well known.[xiii]

However, the seriousness of the problem in terms of mortality, disability, and associated health care costs has now been recognized by governments. On 5th September, 2012 an important conference was held in Tanzania. Reported in the Daily News on 8th September, 2012, the Automobile Association of Tanzania (AAT) President, Mr Nizar Jivani, said statistics provided by Tanzania Police, accidents from the 2010 to 2011 period increased by 10% and fatalities by 12%, while motorcyclist fatalities constitutes 23% of the total. He said various programmes have been planned with FIA to reduce accidents and fatalities, which included a call to the Zanzibar government to immediately form a road and marine safety council.

Some countries have already taken action. Ghana has established a National Road Safety Council, with subsidiary regional bodies. Uganda has established a Road Safety Education Program. South Africa has launched a comprehensive, intensive road safety campaign. The danger is that, without an institution dedicated to this issue, road safety will continue to be ignored.

2. What has the Church being doing in its exhortation to preserve lives on our roads?

I have not found it to be the case that the Church in Africa and Madagascar has issued pastoral letters concerning the need for road security. However, the Nigerian Bishops Conference did issue a Joint Pastoral Letter to their  Government on October 1st 1960. One of the concerns mentioned in the letter centred on the issue of “dash-bribes” on the road: “We are faced, for example, with a widespread “dash-bribe” system that is slowing up our economy, causing deaths on the roads and impeding efficient administration.” The Letter urges the governments to take decisive action in this grave issue and reminds them that men who take bribes betray the trust of the nation. “The Church leaders call on political leaders to have a spirit of service, and to be transparent and accountable to the people.”

3. What can the Church do to address the situation we have on hand?

The Social teaching of the Church is sometimes called its best kept secret. However, the Church has the task of educating and Road Security needs to be part of its social teaching. How often too, have we heard that the Church should stay out of politics. We need to remind others that the Social Teaching of the Church cuts across every sphere of human activity.

What is happening on our roads is a moral issue and the Church has a duty to offer moral guidance and safeguard the sanctity of Life. The Church in its task of Educating needs  to be the voice of the voiceless; and advocate the rights of people to participate in decision making on issues that will affect them. The Church and NGOs have a part to play in convincing people and politicians that better road safety is both needed and possible. It needs to generate political concern as part of a road safety program and specify actions required to attain political priority.

Steps in intervention recommended:

(i)    Church Leadership in each country needs to familiarise itself with the reality of what is happening on our roads. We need to support the efforts and recommendations put forward by organisations such as:

• WHO Africa
• African Development Bank Group
• World Bank and Economic Commission for Africa
• Sub-Saharan Africa Transport Policy Program

(ii)  Awareness campaigns put out by the Church need to:

• emphasise the human suffering caused by road accidents; the economic consequence
• how road accidents can be avoided by implementing effective counter -measures.

(iii)  Heighten awareness of how road traffic injuries put significant strain on families. For everyone killed or injured there are many others deeply affected. Many families are driven  into poverty by the cost of prolonged medical care and the loss of a family breadwinner. Survivors, their families, friends and other caregivers often suffer adverse social, physical and psychological effects.

(iv) Awareness campaigns directed at people need to keep emphasising:

• That in driving at a greater speed there is more likely to be an accident
• Seat belts and safety helmets are there to protect life
• That  road accidents can be reduced considerably if effective countermeasures are implemented
• We have the moral obligation to protect human life and lobby for roads to be audited

(v)  We need to encourage Government to set road safety as national health and transport priority and enforce national legislation to deal with driving under the influence of alcohol, speeding, non-use of helmets, non use of seat belts, un-roadworthy vehicles and use of mobile phones when driving.

The means are there to reduce the number of road accidents considerably, and we can apply them if we want to.


For us Christians, the road is a profound place both literally and spiritually. We use the road in the proverbial sense when we speak of life as a journey along the road. St.Paul, for example, met Jesus on the road – the beginning of his conversion experience, so did the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Moreover, Jesus himself spent his whole public life on the road  proclaiming the Good News. Despite the significance of the place, much conversion needs to take place there as we have already seen.

It is time we move in the light of Jesus’ coming along the road.  – He came, He listened, and He gave new hope  in pointing a way forward which was life giving. What we need now is a “Spirituality of the Road” which both values and respects life in all its forms. The Ten Commandments have sometimes been illustrated as pointers or signposts along the Road – pointers to a way of life which leads to true happiness – rather to a set of rules of do and don’ts. The Commandments deal with the intimacy of relationships; faithfulness and respect for life from different angles. Let it not be said that the Church here in Africa and Madagascar has stopped telling people what they need to hear.

Like Jesus’ appearance to the two on the road to Emmaus we have listened with the heart to all the happenings. As Pope Benedict reminds us believing in Christ implies giving him to others and because of the urgency of this task we should make St. Paul’s deep lived experience our own: “I have been loved by God encountering Christ. To not give him to others is to not value the gift given to me” (Deus Caritas Est).

End Notes

[i]  “Great Lakes Initiative on AIDS (GLIA)”, IOM, 2006; http://nairobi.iom.int/resources/publications/item/download/61_fee321b1c944f5c2244378b61f4a078c

[ii] Jeff Marck, “Long-distance truck drivers’ sexual cultures and attempts to reduce HIV risk behaviour amongst them: a review of the African and Asian literature”, Jeff Marck, 1999; jeffmarck.net/publications/Marck1999Resistance.pdf

[iii]  “Great Lakes Initiative on AIDS (GLIA)”, IOM, 2006; http://nairobi.iom.int/resources/publications/item/download/61_fee321b1c944f5c2244378b61f4a078c

[iv] Jeff Marck, “Long-distance truck drivers’ sexual cultures and attempts to reduce HIV risk behaviour amongst them: a review of the African and Asian literature”, Jeff Marck, 1999; jeffmarck.net/publications/Marck1999Resistance.pdf

[v] “Great Lakes Initiative on AIDS (GLIA)”, IOM, 2006; http://nairobi.iom.int/resources/publications/item/download/61_fee321b1c944f5c2244378b61f4a078c

[vi] Ibid

[vii] Ibid

[viii] Ibid

[ix] See, “Long-distance truck drivers’ sexual cultures and attempts to reduce HIV risk behaviour amongst them: a review of the African and Asian literature”, Jeff Marck, 1999; jeffmarck.net/publications/Marck1999Resistance.pdf

[x] S.a, “Trafficking in Persons Report June 2009”, State, June, 2009; http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2009/123139.htm

[xi] May 15, 2002, International Conference “Twenty-First Century Slavery — The Human Rights dimension to Trafficking in Human Beings” (organized by U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Jim Nicholson and hosted by the Gregorian University).

[xii]  web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/AFRICAEXT/0,,menuPK:…

[xiii]  WHO, Road Traffic Injury is an Escalating Burden in Africa: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070626151407.htm