New regulations to ensure e-hailing safety, fair prices

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 20 Jun 2024
In terms of the Act, e-hailing companies must apply for operating licences.
In terms of the Act, e-hailing companies must apply for operating licences.

E-hailing drivers and operators are upbeat over the signing into law of the amended National Land Transport Act 5 of 2009, saying it finally paves the way for the regulation of e-hailing services in SA.

The Act was signed into law by president Cyril Ramaphosa last week, bringing to an end a 13-year wait for the amended Bill, bringing the regulation up to date with digital economy developments since its implementation.

The revised Bill also expands the powers of the transport minister to make regulations and introduce safety measures in the e-hailing industry. It stipulates that e-hailing companies must introduce strict vetting procedures to ensure drivers and riders don’t participate in criminality while using e-hailing apps.

The past few years have seen e-hailing drivers and operators hold nationwide protests, urging government to intervene by signing the Bill, and oversee the industry.

The e-hailing sector has welcomed the amended Act, noting it solves numerous problems that have arisen since the inception of the industry in SA a decade ago, and provides guidelines for the operation of non-motorised transport, including e-hailing services.

“We are pleased that president Ramaphosa has finally signed the National Land Transport Amendment Bill. This has been long overdue; it has taken us years of fighting for it,” says Melithemba Mnguni, secretary of the e-Hailing Partners Council.

“It officially recognises e-hailing as a service under the National Land Transport Act 2009, as per Section 66A. The Bill is the foundation for regulations, and with regulations, a lot of our issues will be addressed. For example, the minister has to regulate pricing – a process in which we will be consulted as service providers, hence we have fought hard for this.”

The Act also stipulates that e-hailing services operators must apply for operating licences, like any other public transport operator, moving away from the interim usage of charter permits and meter taxi operating licences, he notes.

“All along, e-hailing was recognised through the Practice Note, which puts e-hailing as a subcategory of metered taxis. Going forward, e-hailing will no longer use meter taxi operating licences; instead it will have its own permit.”

Melithemba Mnguni, secretary of the e-Hailing Partners Council.
Melithemba Mnguni, secretary of the e-Hailing Partners Council.

Over 7 000 drivers signed an online petition on last year, urging government to speed up the process of enacting the Bill, complaining it had not seen much progress since it was passed by Parliament in 2020.

The National Land Transport Act was brought to the president’s desk in 2020, but was sent back to the National Assembly for reconsideration in September 2021, due to reservations surrounding its constitutionality.

Now that the president has signed the Amendment Bill, the regulations will be submitted to the Office of the State Law Advisor for certification. They will then be submitted to the minister for approval, said the transport ministry, in a statement released last week.

Weyinmi Aghadiuno, acting head of regulatory and policy at Bolt Africa, says the company welcomes the signing of the Amended National Land Transport Act into law, and looks forward to working closely with regulatory authorities.

“This significant development will positively impact the ride-hailing industry in South Africa, and we look forward to implementing crucial regulatory measures. This amendment will formalise the industry, ensuring operators comply with legal standards, thereby improving the overall quality and enhancing service delivery in the transport sector. It also highlights a commitment to a more inclusive and modern transport system,” comments Aghadiuno.

Kenny Moretsele, Bolt operator and chairperson of the Ekurhuleni E-hailing Association, says the Act legalises the operations of e-hailers and recognises them as transport companies, as opposed to tech companies, as they were previously registered.

“In the past, e-hailing vehicles were considered metered taxis or shuttle services, so now we are recognised as independent operators. But the biggest concern I have is section four of the Act, which gives the minister of transport authority to regulate pricing in the sector.

“This section does not provide clear guidelines on what she is supposed to do to determine the prices. This opens doors for the e-hailing firms to interpret it the way they wish, and even pursue legal action if they are not happy with the set prices. Our worry is that price dumping will continue at the expense of drivers' income.”

An Uber spokesperson tells ITWeb the passing of the National Land Transport Amendment Bill is a step in the right direction in many respects, including the recognition of e-hailing as distinct from other forms of transport.

“We are awaiting more details of how the newly-amended legislation will be implemented, including the publication of regulations specific to e-hailing. In the meantime, we are working with transport regulators at a national, provincial and local level, to help ensure drivers continue to have access to flexible earning opportunities,” says the spokesperson.