Uber, Bolt condemn violence aimed at their drivers in Gauteng

By Sihle Mlambo Time of article published Oct 12, 2021

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E-HAILING services in South Africa have condemned the violence that has been meted out to their drivers in Gauteng recently, with clashes seemingly on the rise from taxi and meter cab operators.

A Bolt registered driver, who was driving in a VW Polo sedan, was brutally assaulted in one incident in Soweto at the weekend, with a video widely circulated on social media and instant messaging services showing the bloody and beaten driver beaten.

Extensive damage was also meted out on the car, with several windows smashed, allegedly after the violence.

It is believed he was beaten by taxi drivers or people linked with the minibus taxi industry after collecting clients from a Soweto mall.

Gauteng police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubele said police had no record of the incident and did not comment further to specific questions about the safety of e-hailing drivers.

Last week, at the popular Eastgate Shopping Centre, e-hailing drivers were barred from picking up members of the public from the shopping centre when meter cab drivers performed an act of intimidation, lining up their cars at the e-hailing reserved pick-up spot of the mall.

Private security, the police and the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department were at the scene to quell tensions and barred any e-hailing drivers from picking up passengers for their safety.

Commenting on the violent beating of an e-hailing driver in Soweto, Gareth Taylor, Bolt’s SADC regional manager, confirmed the motorist was registered on the Bolt South Africa platform.

“Crimes against ride-hailing drivers continue to be a national issue of great concern, and the safety of passengers and drivers that use the Bolt platform is of utmost importance to us.

“Bolt condemns violence of any form directed towards e-hailing drivers because it believes that every South African has the right to earn a living without risk of harm, intimidation, coercion, or fear of death or injury,” said Taylor.

Taylor said the driver had last driven using the app on October 8 (Friday night) and said that they had been alerted about the incident.

“An incident involving the vehicle and its driver that happened on 9 October 2021 has been brought to Bolt’s attention - however, Bolt cannot provide any further information as the driver was not on a Bolt ride at the time,” he said.

He added: “Bolt encourages any driver who is the victim of any form of intimidation or violence to report the incident to the South African Police Service, providing as much information as possible to the investigating officers so that perpetrators can be apprehended and prosecuted”.

Uber’s general manager for Sub-Saharan Africa, Frans Hiemstra, said although the driver was not registered on their app, “our thoughts go out to the victim of this horrible crime”.

“Our focus on safety is unwavering, and we remain committed to equipping our drivers with the information they need to stay safe. However, in the event that any serious safety issues are reported to Uber’s customer support team, Uber’s incident response team is trained in incident response and can review this information and investigate any issues. In addition, when police are involved, Uber’s law enforcement relations team will co-operate with their investigation in accordance with our law enforcement guidelines,” said Hiemstra.

Taylor said Bolt was actively engaging government at the local, provincial and national level to address the issue of driver safety.

“Where incidents are reported to Bolt through the app or by email to [email protected], and to the SAPS, Bolt is firmly committed to supporting any investigation with all information it can gather from its digital platform, which records details about all parties on a ride (passengers and drivers), the nature of the journey, and feedback from both parties about their experience.

“Bolt is always looking for ways to make e-hailing safer for everybody, in consultation with the SAPS, the Department of Transport, and other stakeholders, so that we can continue to offer a way that more than 25000 drivers can earn an income and a way for millions of people in South Africa to access affordable door-to-door transport.

“Bolt is continuously developing safety features and tools that have a real impact on addressing drivers’ safety concerns,” he said.

Both Uber and Bolt did not share figures about the number of safety incidents that drivers on their platforms had reported in the past three months.

“Uber as a company is governed by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI).

“We are obliged to protect people’s sensitive information and due to the nature of this question we have to defer to law enforcement and their decisions around what they want to make public and when they want to make it public,” said Hiemstra on behalf of Uber.

Taylor for Bolt, said: “Bolt is unable to release any crime-related statistics, as this is the preserve of the SAPS and its ministry. Bolt is prohibited from releasing specific data related to safety incidents”.

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