Bolt driver arrested amid harassment accusations

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 08 Mar 2022

A Bolt driver partner has been arrested and charged with two counts of rape, after an online petition was set up, accusing drivers of the e-hailing firm of sexual harassment.

Almost 130 000 people signed the petition set up last week, urging Bolt SADC regional manager Gareth Taylor and other company leaders to adequately verify and vet the ride-hailing firm’s drivers.

The petition, set up by Atang Swartbooi, alleges: “Many South African women have been sexually assaulted by Bolt South Africa drivers. As a result of Bolt South Africa's inaction, a petition is launched in response thereto.”

The petition was set up after a tweep called @LuluthebearrA took to Twitter on 25 February to share what she says is her friend’s sexual harassment experience with a Bolt driver.

@LuluthebearrA wrote: “A Bolt driver raped my friend last night; he strangled her half to death and took her virginity. Bolt doesn’t care about our safety, their Instagram page is filled with people complaining about assault and they have done nothing about it.”

In an “open letter”, responding to the petition, Bolt says: “It is deplorable that the women and children, sons and daughters of everyone in this country have to weigh up their safety when they’re walking in a public place, using public transport, or even just going about their daily business.

“That’s why we supported the South African Police Service (SAPS) in their investigation into last week’s heinous incident, and why we applaud their quick action and investigations that led to two charges of rape being laid against the perpetrator.”

In an e-mail interview with ITWeb, Bolt confirmed the charge against its driver was opened by the female victim at the Honeydew Police Station and that the e-hailing firm has kept in touch with her.

“We continue to provide any information to support the investigation currently under way by SAPS and the process will unfold in accordance with the police investigation in consultation with the National Prosecuting Authority,” explains Taylor.

“Bolt has engaged with the female victim several times and we are awaiting further information from the victim, after which she will have access to counselling sessions as needed, at no cost to her, which forms part of our trip insurance offering to all passengers using our platform.”

In terms of safety measures taken to protect its passengers, Taylor maintains that since Bolt’s arrival in SA, the company has introduced many safety interventions. One of these is an unequivocal rule that all drivers require a Professional Driving Permit issued by local authorities to be accepted onto the Bolt platform. This permit is only granted to applicants who obtain a Police Clearance Certificate from the SAPS, Taylor adds.

In addition to the Police Clearance, Bolt requires additional criminal background checks – as an extra layer of driver verification – which are performed by an independent provider, Managed Integrity Evaluation.

“The ‘Share my ETA’ function lets passengers share their trip details and progress with any trusted individual – meaning that any delay in their arrival is flagged immediately.

Drivers and passengers have an SOS button in their app that alerts Namola to send a private emergency response if there is an incident,” notes Taylor.

In addition, Bolt says it is in discussions with Agisanang Domestic Abuse Prevention and Training, which works with men as an effective strategy to changing social values and structural factors that perpetuate violence against women, with the intention of rolling out several programmes to drivers in the coming months.