The Public Private Transport Association (PPTA) expects at least 30 000 drivers from Uber, Uber Eats, Bolt, Bolt Food, InDriver, and Mr D Food will partake in a national shutdown of e-hailing and app-based delivery services on Thursday, 24 March 2022.
That is what PPTA’s founder Vhatuka Mbelengwa told eNCA on Monday.
The organisation claims to represent a collective of e-hailing representative bodies that want the government to regulate the industry, and give drivers more say on pricing.
Its three-day strike began on Tuesday, starting with a slow drive from Marabastad in Pretoria to the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition offices in the capital’s CBD. PPTA then handed over a memorandum with the drivers’ demands.
They also intended to hand over a memorandum at the Union Buildings, appealing directly to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The strike will continue on Wednesday and culminate in a national shutdown on Thursday, 24 March 2022, when drivers aim to block public roads and disrupt access to “critical institutions”.
Mbelengwa advised commuters in the country who relied on e-hailing services to make alternative arrangements, saying there would be a limited number of drivers available.
“Even those who are not participating in the active strike to submit the memorandum will be offline at home,” Mbelengwa said.
He explained that drivers were turning to the government for regulation as the e-hailing platforms they relied on were not addressing their concerns, including rising fuel and insurance costs, over-saturation of drivers, and driver safety.
“Let’s take petrol as an example. Uber independently takes decisions on what the pricing will be,” Mbelengwa stated.
“We are saying if we are truly partners in this sector, we need to have a joint decision-making platform reflective of a partnership, and Uber cannot then take pricing decisions as an independent organisation.”
Mbelenwga claimed that prices in the e-hailing sector had decreased since Uber became the first market player in 2013, while fuel prices increased over the same period.
“We are operating at below the cost of operating. We are losing money,” he stated.
“They continue to take their lion’s share of whatever is generated and leave us in a situation whereby we’re just continually getting poorer and poorer.”
Bolt’s SADC regional manager Gareth Taylor told MyBroadband that the company was aware of the planned action and respected drivers’ right to protest.
He appealed to them to do so legally, peacefully, and without impacting the rights of other drivers who choose to continue to operate and earn an income.
At the same time, Bolt condemned intimidation or violence directed towards e-hailing drivers and passengers or any other bystanders.
Bolt said it believes that every South African has the right to earn a living and move around without risk of harm, intimidation or coercion, or fear of death or injury.
Footage shared by EWN on Twitter showed that the striking drivers were already disrupting e-hailing drivers who tried to continue operating on Tuesday.
“We are concerned that intimidation of drivers wishing to operate may be taking place, and we will carefully monitor this in order to, where necessary, report this to the South African Police Services,” said Taylor.
“Bolt has received concerns directly from drivers and continues to communicate with our broader driver community.”
Taylor said that drivers on Bolt’s platform were able to raise their concerns directly with the company.
He also explained how Bolt balanced the earning needs of drivers with affordability for passengers.
“More people will choose to ride with Bolt if rates are affordable, which means that drivers have more opportunities to earn money,” Taylor stated.
He also disputed that Bolt had not increased prices to account for drivers’ increased running costs.
“Bolt increased its rates by up to 20% in March 2022, with increases implemented on the minimum fare, start rate, per kilometre rate, and the trip cancellation rate.”
He added that Bolt looked forward to the approval of the National Land Transport Amendment Bill that will create clarity in the transport sector.
“The Bill is currently being processed by Parliament, and we are optimistic that the Bill will be referred back to President Cyril Ramaphosa for his signature later this year,” Taylor said.
MyBroadband asked Uber, DiDi, and InDriver for comment, but they had not responded by the time of publication.