Cape Town - Uber and Taxify drivers work under constant fear of having their vehicles impounded and paying hefty fines.
Traffic services target e-hailing service operators in areas like the airport, Green Point and the V&A Waterfront for failure to carry the correct operating licence.
Drivers say they cannot afford to pay the hefty fines, some as high as R25 000, imposed on them and have even lied to traffic officials while going through roadblocks to avoid their vehicles being impounded.
Sizwe Dlamini has been an Uber driver for more than a year and a half. He said Uber applied for his operating licence on his behalf but he was yet to receive one.
“We are targeted because we don’t have the operating licence. The most difficult places to drive are the Waterfront, Green Point and at the airport. I have had to lie to them before when I was pulled over and luckily I got through it but I still have to drive very carefully,” he said.
Dlamini makes between R12000 and R15000 a month, but his monthly expenses leave him with almost nothing. He spends around R2000 a week on petrol, R2700 a month on car instalments, R2300 a month on insurance and more than R600 a month on data for the app.
In the first six months of this year the city impounded 480 cars, compared to 646 for the whole of last year.
The National Land Transport Act prescribes that when a public transport service is rendered by an operator, an operating licence is a prerequisite. Any public transport operator who operates without an operating licence is liable to be fined and their vehicles to be impounded by the enforcement agencies.
According to mayoral committee member for transport and urban development Brett Herron, e-hailing drivers must have an operating licence to avoid their vehicles being impounded.
In order to apply for an operating licence operators must first register and upload all of their supporting documents which includes a business plan, Home Affairs documentation, Sars tax clearance certificate, proof of residence and vehicle ownership documentation with the respective e-hailing technology partner.
The city will verify the information and issue a letter of provisional support to the metered taxi operator taking into account the number of operating licences already available within an area to ensure the supply does not exceed the demand.
The operator must then submit the application to the Western Cape Provincial Regulatory Entity for consideration.
“It takes the city on average about 60 days, depending on the number of applications, to verify the information by the e-hailing technology partner,” said Herron.
An Uber spokesperson said all drivers must have a professional driver’s permit but it does not require its drivers to have an operating licence in order to work.
Operations manager for Taxify in Cape Town Sinako Cetyiwe said Taxify did not want to “hinder” the entrepreneurial pursuits of its drivers.
“We have a significant portion of drivers that do have the operating licence but we cannot deprive the others of the opportunity to earn. We’ve adjusted our rate to R7.00 per kilometre but we’ve kept our service fee at 15% so that the drivers can earn more,” he said.
Uber has a 25% service fee.
In recent months Uber and Taxify drivers have taken part in strikes in Joburg against service fees and petrol price increases while in Durban drivers believe they were targeted by police at the airport after videos emerged of a driver being forcefully arrested while trying to pick up a passenger at King Shaka International Airport.
Mandla Achievol has been an Uber driver since January 2017 and his car was impounded in May when he was stopped in Green Point.
“When you go to the Waterfront and you see a cop you get scared because you don’t know what’s going to happen.
“You get out of there quickly. The other thing is safety because you don’t want to go to some areas because of danger.”
According to mayoral committee member for safety, security and social services JP Smith, the fines for a first impoundment are R7000 and R2500 for the release fee. The second impoundments rises to R15 000 in total while a third time will cost the driver or owner of the car R25000.
The city collected more than R13.2 million from impoundments from July 2017 to May 2018.