E-hailing vehicle operators suspend services, march against ‘exploitation of drivers’

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E-hailing operators say they plan suspending services on Monday to protest against what they say is exploitation by services like Uber and Bolt. The drivers and car owners say the industry needs to be regulated.

E-hailing drivers will gather in Sandton, north of Johannesburg, before marching to the offices of Bolt.

E-hailing services will be protesting across the country:

A spokesperson for the drivers, Vhatuka Mbelengwa, says operators will march to Bolt offices to hand over a memorandum of demands.

“Absence of vehicles is being felt countrywide. There’s a shortage of vehicles in Cape Town, KZN, Johannesburg, Pretoria and it is growing in momentum. Drivers are rallying behind this cause. Drivers are demanding reform, the time is now.”

Bolt drivers bring traffic to a standstill in Durban:

E-hailing is pay-as-you-go transportation model that enables everyday people to move safely and conveniently. The operators use their personal vehicles, mostly financed by banks, and are booked through the app companies.

However, it is up to the e-hailing app companies to set the prices for the trips. Mbelengwa says the app companies drop prices without consulting them as the industry is not regulated.

“The relationship that we have with app hailing companies such as uber and bolt is currently not governed. There are a lot of loopholes which in essence are now leaving us as operators within the space subject to a lot of exploitation. They refer to us as partners but there isn’t a single decision-making platform reflective of a partnership. So it can’t be correct to refer to us as partners but you independently decide what price our skills and labour are sold at.”

Mbelengwa says pricing is a major problem as they are running their businesses at a loss….

“Bolt then continues to drop prices and run promotions which are ultimately subsidized by us. And we actually don’t have the money for that. Recently they moved to launch a platform called bolt go. Which then drops the prices which we are currently offering our services. Which then results in us not being able to service our responsibilities. We can’t pay installments, we can’t meet our obligations at home. Vehicle repossession in our space is on a constant increase.”

Safety is paramount and Mbelengwa says both drivers and passengers fall victim to crime as one of the companies has no proper vetting system.

“Both drivers and riders are experiencing a vast amount of criminal activity. We as drivers don’t know who is getting in our vehicles because no proper vetting process has been done. With the amount of investment, we have in this industry. It can’t be ok for them to continue to allow for a dangerous system to continue persisting when there is a way to make this platform safer.”

They will gather at George Lea Park and march to the Bolt Bryanston offices, north of Johannesburg. They have vowed to suspend services until their concerns are heard.

A spokesperson for the drivers Vhatuka Mbelengwa speaks to SABC News: