E-hailing drivers to down tools next week demanding better working environment

Published Mar 30, 2023


Johannesburg - Drivers of the two biggest e-hailing providers, Bolt and Uber, are planning a strike to demand a better working environment from the app owners.

Bolt failed to provide statistics on the number of drivers who had been killed while on duty in the last three years.

This is despite reports of attacks and killings of their drivers and some passengers being reported almost every week, and the companies admitting to being aware of the increase.

In the past two weeks, it is reported that over five incidents of attacks took place.

Those included University of Johannesburg law graduate Euston Mnguni, 28, who was shot four times by passengers who hijacked him in Midrand, north of Johannesburg.

Gauteng Provincial SAPS spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Mavela Masondo said police are experiencing a hike in the attacks and hijackings of e-hailing vehicles and taxis in Johannesburg and are appealing to the drivers and passengers to be extra careful while the investigation and search for the suspects are under way.

"The motive for the killing cannot be confirmed at this stage, but an investigation is under way," Masondo said.

The ride-hailing drivers issued their intentions to stage a week-long strike from April 3 to April 9, over what they called an inhumane working environment.

In the past, strike action by these drivers turned violent, with attacks on non-striking drivers who were referred to as "rats".

Boy Maratha, a driver, said it is unfortunate that they finance their own cars, and they feel like they are volunteering their services.

"The cost of living is too high; we finance our own cars and buy our own petrol, we don’t see results; it is as if we are volunteering. The situation is so bad that we can’t maintain normal living," said Maratha.

Another driver, Thabang Mokatse, said when they encounter break-downs, they are expected to take out their own money to fix the cars. He said at times they resort to borrowing from loan sharks.

"The situation is bad. We get robbed and killed on a daily basis, but it is as if the owners of the app don’t care. I am of the view that they only care about profits. People have lost fathers, husbands, etc., and they ask themselves what happened. This is concerning," said Mokatse.

Maratha said one cannot drive a kilometre for R4.50, saying that a litre of petrol is about R25. He questioned how they are supposed to make a profit from that.

For their demands, drivers want app owners to decrease the commission by less than 15%, they want app owners to put 360-degree cameras into their cars for safety, they want clients to be verified as well, and they want the app owners to stop commanding them and instead communicate with new rules or anything they implement.

Takura Malaba, Bolt regional manager for East and Southern Africa, said they are aware of the planned strike, and they respect every driver’s right to protest.

"We have always appealed to drivers to do so legally, peacefully, and without impacting the rights of other drivers, choosing to continue to operate and earn an income. We continue to monitor these issues and to provide information to our driver community as well as passengers during these potential protests," said Malaba.

Malaba said crimes against drivers continue to be a national issue of great concern, and the safety of riders and drivers utilising the Bolt platform is of the utmost importance to them.

"Bolt is cooperating with the police to provide all the relevant information required to assist in every case, as well as provide the impacted driver with all the information needed for trauma counselling with our provider," said Malaba.

A number of drivers, including competitors, had in the past called for the e-hailing industry to be regulated.

"Bolt continues to work with the government to create a conducive regulatory environment for ride-hailing. We have for five years been working closely with the government to see the enactment of the National Land Transport Amendment Bill," Malaba said.

Uber failed to meet the deadline to comment.

The Star