A taxi fills up ahead of fuel hike. PHOTOS: ANA

PRETORIA - South Africans from different sectors are united in lamentation as the fuel hike kicks in, taking the prices to a record R16-a-litre for petrol.

At the weekend the energy department said the price of petrol would go up by up to 26 cents per litre from Wednesday, citing a weaker rand against the dollar. The increase comes on the back of another steep increase last month.

Commenting ahead of the latest fuel increase Truckers Association of South Africa's Mary Phadi said already, workers in the industry were losing jobs as employers struggle to keep up with runaway prices.

"Before we even talk about this week's fuel increase, everybody who has got a truck in South Africa is in trouble. It is really a concern to us, because the economy is not growing, and we don't get to have more work opportunities," lamented Phadi.

"If you add the fuel price increase for this week to what is already a challenging environment, then you can see we are feeling the pinch. We feel that the government is failing us, as emerging truckers."

Phadi insisted government should provide financial support for the transporters, as it supports other sectors.

"The government has been doing that for a long time now with the farmers, it supports them. Those in manufacturing are supported too, but they [government] don't do it with transport. As truckers we feel that we have been neglected by the government," she said.

"We are engaging them at the moment, and diesel is one of the issues. We are engaging them intensively regarding the scale that is not favouring the black truckers in South Africa."

She said employers in the sector have had no option but to shed jobs.

"Truckers in this country are not happy. Even yesterday [Monday], some were saying this is it ... they have already retrenched drivers so it is definitely going to be very bad. Very, very bad," said Phadi.

"Truckers were hoping that the new regime [the new administration led by President Cyril Ramaphosa] would be able to assist us, but instead of being assisted we are actually going down."

The Truckers Association of South Africa boasts of more than 500 members.

A critical player in the South African co transportation industry, Uber, said it was watching the fuel price hikes with keen interest.  

"The recent increases across the various industries are felt by all citizens of South Africa. Prior to the recent fuel price increases, we launched a temporary winter incentive as well as hourly guarantees to help reduce this financial impact," said Uber spokesperson Samantha Allenberg.  

"We constantly monitor partner economies and examine consumer price sensitivities to ensure fares are correctly priced so that riders continue to take trips and drivers have access to more fare paying passengers

"Uber is committed to supporting the men and women who drive with Uber and we will continue to invest in rider marketing and promotions to keep riders riding, and to ensure earnings stay strong for drivers across South Africa. Uber succeeds when our partners succeed and our teams are working hard every day to ensure drivers using our app to continue to thrive."

But in Johannesburg, Uber and Taxify partner drivers were up in arms demanding the share rider companies lower their 25 percent commission to cushion them against the impact of the fuel price hikes.

Civic society movement #NotInMyName said the communities they interact with were struggling to survive, and the situation will be exacerbated by the hikes.

"On Wednesday fuel will cost us more than16 rand per litre. Our economy is already in junk status. How much more must the people of this country endure? The blue-collar working class of our nation are the ones who feel the brunt of this fuel hike," said #NotInMyName secretary general, Themba Masango.

Taking a dig at President Cyril Ramaphosa's "Thuma Mina" [Send Me] mantra, Masango added: "I'm sure President Thuma Mina does not know the cost of fuel, and its knock-on effect on us the people. Disposable income is a myth for many South African families because it all goes to fuel. Driving your child to school has become a luxury".

Masango said prices of basic goods needed for families day-to-day survival had ballooned in recent times, adding that the price of basic goods was likely to go up because of higher fuel prices.

"Retailers need to transport goods from manufacturer to the stores. We call on the powers that be to consider the plight of our people and cushion us from this plague..what new dawn is this? " said Masango.

Seasoned metered taxi driver Vusi Chabalala, who operates around Pretoria CBD, said many of his peers were considering quitting the business because of viability issues that hinge on fuel price hikes and the fierce competition presented by Uber. 

- African News Agency (ANA)