Fight between e-hailing and taxi drivers endangers lives

Vhatuka Mbelengwa from e-hailing Association talks to taxi owners and municipal officials in Soweto this week. Picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso/African News Agency (ANA)

Vhatuka Mbelengwa from e-hailing Association talks to taxi owners and municipal officials in Soweto this week. Picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 14, 2023


THE fight between e-hailing drivers and taxi operators has been one of the issues that have been left unresolved since e-hailing services became popular in the country.

In several areas in Gauteng, e-hailing drivers are prohibited from dropping off and picking up clients as taxi operators accuse them of stealing their passengers.

Whenever e-hailing drivers go to these areas, they are threatened, attacked or ordered to pay a fine by taxi operators to avoid impounding their cars.

Twenty-eight-year-old Thabiso Molokomme, an e-hailing driver from Pretoria, said he was concerned about his safety after the incident at Maponya Mall, Soweto, where his colleagues were attacked and one fatally shot.

On Tuesday, some e-hailing drivers retaliated by blocking roads outside the Protea Glen shopping mall. A case of attempted murder and damage to property has since been opened.

“We are not allowed to pick up or drop off clients from the Bosman, Gautrain station, or anywhere near the Manhattan hotel. This is unfair because we, like them, are trying to make a living.

“We are always on high alert, but the Soweto incident raised more alarms. We are not safe, and nothing is being done by those in higher powers to assist us,” he said.

Molokomme has been an e-hailing service operator for almost two years. He said he does it during his free time to make extra money.

“The cost of living is too high in this country. Everything is going up, and we are all finding alternative ways to make money to provide for our families.

“Why can’t taxi operators understand that? Why is the government not doing anything to come to our aid? How many e-hailing drivers must die before they do anything?” he said.

To try to resolve the issue, the United Taxi Association Forum (UTAF) held a meeting at Kliptown Police Station with the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) and South African e-hailing Association (SAEHA) to initiate peace talks between the two industries.

SAEHA spokesperson Vathuka Mbelengwa said the parties had reached an interim agreement to calm operation tensions immediately.

“This is not the first time we had the emergence of disruption and not the first time a short-term plan has been put into place. What we need to do now is to ensure a permanent and sustainable solution that would be beneficial for everyone involved.

“Thus, moving forward, we hope for a more structured response and structured operational planning, which we believe can only emerge through regulation,” he said.

The organisations are to hold another meeting to discuss the matter further concerning the deceased driver.

“There was no discussion with regards to the deceased. We have not yet been adequately briefed. We have another meeting on Friday and hope to get some clarity on what exactly transpired from the Eldos station commander,” said Mbelengwa.

He added that SAEHA intends to work much more closely with Santaco and hopes they can put pressure on to implement laws to ensure proper governance within these two sectors.

On the other hand, Bolt South Africa’s regional manager in East and Southern Africa, Takura Malaba, condemned criminal conduct and violence directed towards ride-hailing drivers.

He said the company believed that everyone had a right to earn a living and move around without risk of harm, intimidation, coercion, or fear of death or injury.

Moreover, Malaba said the e-hailing company continued to maintain the development of tools and safety measures that meet drivers' safety concerns.

“Crimes, violence and intimidation against ride-hailing drivers continue to be a national issue of great concern as this compromises people’s freedom to move from A to B when and how they choose. This also means drivers cannot earn an income to support their families,” Malaba said.

With more than 40 000 drivers using their e-hailing system, Bolt has devised measures to regularly monitor threats and crime hotspots.

It has identified Cape Town, Durban, East London, Mbombela, Mthatha and Rustenburg as significant hotspots for attacks on their drivers. “Bolt shares information about danger hotspots with drivers, and drivers can decline a trip if they are concerned about the safety of the pick-up location.”

Bolt offers free trauma counselling to drivers and passengers after any traumatic incident while using the platform through our partner Oaksure, he said.

Malaba said Bolt insured all their drivers at no cost in case of an emergency. Bolt partnered with one of the country’s emergency and rescue organisations, the Automobile Association (AA), to allow drivers and passengers access to an emergency response service integrated into the app.

“Our drivers are covered at no cost by Bolt Trip Protection, an insurance cover that provides for emergency medical expenses, permanent disability and death caused by an incident while on a Bolt trip. Drivers are covered while they are online and active on the Bolt platform, whether waiting for a ride or on a ride until they go offline,” Malaba said.

Previous incidents:

  • In July 2017, Uber Driver Lindelani Mashau was torched by meter taxi operators in Pretoria. Mashau succumbed to his injuries five weeks later.
  • In January 2018, Taxify driver Max Nyoni was fatally shot in Yeoville, and two other e-hailing drivers were stabbed in separate attacks in Boksburgs.
  • In April 2018, Taxify operator (now known as Bolt) Siyabonga Ngcobo, 21, was torched to death by taxi operators in Pretoria.
  • In October 2018, an Uber driver was arrested for stabbing a meter-taxi driver who had hijacked him and demanded a R4000 fine.