Online petition urges Bolt to verify, vet drivers

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 04 Mar 2022

An online petition on accusing partner drivers of e-hailing firm Bolt South Africa of sexual harassment, has been signed by over 100 000 people who say they are customers of the company.

The online campaign, set up by Atang Swartbooi and addressed to Bolt SADC regional manager Gareth Taylor and two other company leaders, urges Bolt SA to verify and vet its drivers more efficiently so that accountability and transparency are encouraged.

For a number of years, South African women have been sharing their experiences of alleged sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of e-hailing drivers.

As a result, many people have been calling for e-hailing cab services to make women’s safety their first priority.

In the petition, 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.”

Swartbooi acknowledges Bolt SA's attempt to minimise these sexual assault cases by introducing the Women Only service; however, he claims this has proved to be ineffective.

The petition comes 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.”

The tweet is accompanied by a photo of the driver, vehicle model and registration.

Responding to the allegations, Taylor told ITWeb that the e-hailing firm is aware of the online petition, noting the company will always fully support any SAPS investigation into any incident occurring during a trip.

In addition, Bolt SA is ready to cooperate with law enforcement fully and can provide data about passengers, drivers and trip details once there is a SAPS case number available, he says.

“Bolt has not and will never hold back in condemning any violence levelled against drivers and passengers while using the platform. We have multiple safety interventions in place, and continue to look for more ways to make e-hailing safer in South Africa’s crime-torn context.

“To the more than 100 000 South Africans that have signed this petition, thank you for taking the time to let us know that you’d rather we improved, than cease to be around.”

According to Taylor, while the company is also calling for change on these digital platforms, “unfortunately, part of the premise behind this particular petition is founded on misinformation”.

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 (PDP) 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 obtained via the PDP, Bolt conducts criminal background checks – as an extra layer of driver verification – which are performed by an independent provider, Managed Integrity Evaluation.

“Before they even get into a vehicle, Bolt passengers have: a photo of the driver; they know the driver’s name, phone number, car registration details, car make and model; how many trips the driver has completed in the past; and the average rating secured by the driver from their previous passengers,” he explains.

No other form of public transport offers this level of information about the driver, he adds.

“Bolt hates that gender-based violence is a reality so many South Africans have to contend with on a daily basis, and wishes that it could remove all risks of such instances happening on its platform,” according to Taylor.