By Tauhierah Salie
E-hailing commuters will have to call a friend or hop into public transport mediums until Thursday. Drivers and operators including- Uber, Bolt, In-driver and DiDi- have embarked on a three-day, nationwide strike over regulation and safety concerns. Uber Eats and Mr D are likewise affected.
On Tuesday, several affected groups submitted a memorandum of demands to Parliament in Cape Town and the Union Buildings in Pretoria, holding placard demonstrations voicing their grievances.
This includes calls for government to provide a framework within which the sector must operate. It comes amid a lack of accountability structures for employees to contest safety and security issues as well as deductions from wages.
Private Public Transport Association chairperson Vhatuka Mbelengwa says tens of thousands of E-hailing drivers will be participating, amidst what they have labelled as ‘exploitation’.
“We want to put pressure on e-hailing companies to say you can’t continue making money at the cost of our exploitation. There will be no e-hailing vehicles available over the next three days. There will be a very limited, if any, vehicles available. Even those who will not be participating in the active strike will be offline,” he said.
Safety is among their top concerns, with SAPS investigating multiple hijacking and assault cases involving drivers and their vehicles. According to Mbelengwa, App companies should also come to the party:
“Technology can be built to be safe. Everybody deserves safety within the sector. And if app companies are not willing to engage so we can make sure we build a healthy industry- government must regulate to ensure there is compliance (and a) framework to operate within.”
The current business model reportedly works through employing independent tech contractors, who work in exchange for commission. This has led to monies being split between the taxi service (app), drivers and vehicle owner.
Demands have therefore been made for the Transport Amendment Bill to be signed into law. The move will recognize and thereby legitimize the e-hailing firms as transport companies, compelling their adherence to the National Land Transport Act (NLTA).
Mbelengwa explained that regulation will ensure fair pricing, accountability, and proper vetting of drivers:
“We need to come together and stand together to ensure that, moving forward, we form a regulated sector so that Individual companies can no longer continue to exploit us. Our biggest problem at the moment is that we have undefined relationships.”
The groups have since urged the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) to clarify the legislative framework and who the relevant stakeholders are, to ensure organizations can be held liable.
Organizers of the strike stressed that all acts of violence will be denounced and that proactive measures are being implemented:
“We also are aware of the fact that there are criminal elements that take advantage of these strikes. What we have done as a preventative measure is establish an e-haling info line- Whatsapp line. All industry participants can sign up to this line (to) ensure that the right information is being sent out. We have an obligation to respect the citizens of South Africa, who deserve a safe environment,” he concluded.
The DTIC meanwhile confirmed to VOC that the memorandum of demands was received on Tuesday afternoon and will be escalated to the ministry before further response is provided.