WATCH: E-hailing drivers demand Fikile Mbalula end exploitation by app companies
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Pretoria - E-hailing transport drivers from companies like Uber, Bolt and InDriver downed tools and gathered in Pretoria at the Department of Transport to demand Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula "end their exploitation by the giant transport app companies."
With emotions running high, security guards ended up closing down roller doors to the department's entrance as the drivers sought answers but the door broke during the altercation.
The drivers said they issued messages to all e-hailing vehicle drivers to switch off their apps to shutdown operations across the country to strengthen their call for Mbalula to impose regulations on the companies they labelled "arrogant and bossy."
Gauteng convenor for e-hailing vehicle drivers Henry Mathebula and Nomagugu Ndiweni led an angry crowd to the minister's officer calling for Mbalula to "lay off Twitter" and come end the exploitation of the youth being exploited by giant companies and exposed to dangerous working conditions.
Mathebula said these companies, in charging cheaper rates for trips, have made them enemies of the metered taxi drivers, leaving them afraid to pick up people from some areas but, despite deaths and violence, the department has not asked the companies to increase their prices for fair competition that will end the conflict.
He said low prices of around R20, and sometimes discounts allowing people to pay R10 or less, were leaving them with "peanuts" that saw some drivers' cars being repossessed even in front of passengers.
Ndiweni said even though Uber was trying and offering security to protect drivers, most of the drivers, especially from the smaller companies, were still not safe from hijacking, robberies and theft.
She said these companies were just happy to get their portion per trip, that there was no adequate client identity verification, leaving drivers robbed, kidnapped and hijacked by the "so called" passengers.
She said: "Mbalula we are here to say you are our father as the Minister of the Department of Transport and we are saying you cannot continue to allow these internationally owned companies to come to our country and exploit us like this.
"Do something Mbalula. We are in the streets day in, day out, but we have nothing to show for it. We are being killed and we buried at least three of our drivers since the last time we were here last year."
Mathebula said: "These companies do not even treat the drivers like partners even when they claim that we are partners. When some angry passengers with their own issues complain, drivers just get dismissed without hearing. They just get kicked out of the system and receive notice through email. Imagine this happens after you just purchased a vehicle."
The drivers who said they were tired of delivering memorandums that are not followed by responses screamed at Acting Deputy Director-General Johannes Makgatho, who received the memorandum on Mbalula's behalf, to ensure the papers would not be "used as toilet paper."
However, Makgatho told them that even if they did not believe it, the government does care about e-hailing operations, as a matter of fact, there is legislation that seeks to regulate companies like Uber, Bolt and InDriver but it was currently awaiting finalisation at parliament.