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Drivers from e-hailing companies down tools to seek support for regulations

Uber, Bolt and inDriver drivers march to Dorp Street. Drivers are set for a 3-day protest starting today, as they are calling on the government to regulate the industry. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Uber, Bolt and inDriver drivers march to Dorp Street. Drivers are set for a 3-day protest starting today, as they are calling on the government to regulate the industry. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 23, 2022

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Cape Town - E-hailing drivers affiliated with global app giants are calling on the government to help curb alleged exploitation by their app partners.

The drivers and operators of Uber, Bolt, inDriver, DiDi, Uber Eats and Bolt Food couriers started a 3-day nationwide protest across all provinces to deliver a memorandum of demands to various government offices, including the Western Cape Transport and the Public Works offices in Dorp Street, on Wednesday.

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Among the long list of demands, the e-hailing operators interim committee and affiliates representing drivers and operators called on the government to speed up the process of regulating the e-hailing industry to minimise what they called “atrocious working conditions”.

Other concerns included safety and security issues, and the high commissions deducted from the drivers’ wages.

Provincial committee chairperson Sakhumzi Peter said they also demanded that Transport and Public Works MEC Daylin Mitchell and other MECs seek an order from the high court, interdicting against intimidating, committing, or threatening to commit acts of violence against e-hailing operators, drivers and members of the public who make use of or wish to use the services.

The memorandum was signed and accepted by Mario Erasmus, a representative from the department, who promised to take it to his seniors.

Cape Town Driver’s Association chairperson Siyabonga Hlabisa said they had been trying to meet with Mitchell, but without success.

Mitchell's spokesperson, Ntomboxolo Makoba-Somdaka, acknowledged receipt of the memorandum, saying they would study the contents.

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Makoba-Somdaka disputed claims that Mitchell never met with the representatives of Uber and Bolt to discuss concerns raised.

“A meeting was held on November 10, 2021 where Mitchell was assured by the app providers that they would address the issues,” she said.

Makoba-Somdaka said Mitchell engaged the leaders of e-hailing in the interest of protecting commuters and motorists.

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Kagiso Khaole, head of mobility operations for sub-Saharan Africa at Uber, said: “We take the concerns of drivers seriously and are engaging directly to addressing the issues.”

Khaole said Uber’s commitment to drivers was to continuously find ways of maximising their earning potential and meet the needs of the passengers.

He said there were several factors, particularly the global volatility of fuel prices, which impacted the cost of moving people and goods.

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“With this in mind, we have increased prices on the app to account for inflationary increases. As always, riders will see the price of a trip before booking their journey,” he said.

SADC regional manager at Bolt, Gareth Taylor, said the e-hailing sector was a complex one, and after having engaged extensively with the team that drafted the National Land Transport Amendment Bill to provide industry-specific insights, Bolt looked forward to the approval of the National Land Transport Amendment Bill that would create clarity for all stakeholders in the SA transport sector.

He said the bill was being processed by Parliament, and he was optimistic that it would be referred back to President Cyril Ramaphosa for his signature later this year.

Responding to allegations of exploitation, Taylor said drivers used the platform voluntarily, and could choose the hours and locations that they would like to earn an income or if they would like to use the platform.

He said driver and passenger safety was a top priority for Bolt, and he condemned any violence of any form directed towards ride-hailing passengers or drivers.

“Similarly, we believe every person has the right to work without risk of harm, intimidation or coercion, or fear of death or injury,” he said.

Taylor said Bolt continued to look for ways to make e-hailing safer for everybody, in consultation with the police, the Department of Transport, and other stakeholders, while it continued to offer a way that allowed more than 40 000 drivers to earn an income, and millions of people in SA could benefit from affordable door-to-door transport.

“We are continuously developing safety features and tools that have a real impact on addressing the safety concerns of drivers and passengers,” he said.

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