E-hailing drivers want legislative intervention
E-hailing drivers and operators of Uber, Bolt and inDrive are urging president Cyril Ramaphosa to sign the National Land Transport Amendment Bill into law.
This, amid the escalating spate of hijackings at the hands of criminals posing as e-hailing riders.
Almost 7 000 drivers have signed an online petition on Change.org, urging government to speed up the process of enacting the Bill, which has not seen much progress since it was passed by Parliament in 2020.
The Bill 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.
It also ensures e-hailing firms are subject to relevant transport regulations, and will pay fair wages and provide better working conditions for all drivers and operators.
In the petition, e-hailing drivers and operators are demanding government to intervene in their plight to create a safer industry, by primarily beefing up in-app security and ensuring stringent customer on-boarding processes.
While the e-hailing industry is no stranger to violence, there has been a fresh increase in hijackings and robberies targeted at e-hailing vehicles. Last month, three e-hailing drivers were reportedly killed during robbery and hijacking incidents.
The petition, started by Melithemba Mnguni, secretary of the e-Hailing Partners Council, reads: “For too long e-hailing giants like Uber, inDrive and Bolt have continued to operate unregulated. They are not held accountable for the safety of their drivers or passengers, for that matter.
“As things stand, Uber and Bolt have no legal obligation to protect their drivers or passengers. They are not accountable for allowing criminals onto their platform.”
Mnguni is the brother of the late Bolt driver and law graduate Euston Mnguni, who was murdered in March by criminals masquerading as riders.
Mnguni tells ITWeb the petition will be submitted to the e-hailing app companies and government, in due time.
“This year alone, we have an estimate of more than 50 e-hailing drivers who have died in the line of duty. The Transport Amendment Bill will address the legitimacy of e-hailing. It will officially introduce e-hailing into the transport ecosystem, therefore enabling co-existence with other transport counterparts.
“It will also enable regulations that will hold app companies to account through compliance.”
Responding to the allegations, Takura Malaba, regional manager, east and southern Africa at Bolt, told ITWeb in an e-mail interview that Boltis participating in ongoing work with the South African Police Service to root out criminal behaviour in the e-hailing sector and fully cooperates with the law.
“The safety of drivers is of paramount importance to us. Bolt requires all new riders to authenticate themselves using a one-time PIN when setting up a new profile. The SOS button, if used, alerts private armed response teams and private emergency medical rescue to respond to calls when passengers and drivers are in need of urgent assistance. Response times vary based on location,” he explains.
“We are currently, as a priority, investigating ways to enhance our rider verification to stop this criminality. We also have very strict codes of conduct and conditions of use for passengers across all the categories on the platform. We never hesitate to permanently suspend any person, driver, or passenger who contravenes these conditions of use.”
In addition to the Bolt Driver Selfie Verification feature on its mobile app, Bolt is continuously developing safety features and tools that have a real impact on addressing the safety concerns of drivers and passengers, adds Malaba.
An inDrive spokesperson comments: “We appreciate the call for enhanced regulations in the ride-hailing industry. Prioritising the safety of our drivers and passengers is at the heart of our operations. We are committed to continuous improvements and stand ready to collaborate with drivers, government and other stakeholders to foster a safer environment for all.”
Uber had not responded to ITWeb’s request for comment by the time of publication.
The past few years have seen e-hailing drivers and operators hold nationwide protests, urging government to intervene by signing the Bill.
The legislation will also expand the powers of the transport minister to make regulations and introduce safety measures.
While it was passed by Parliament in 2020, Ramaphosa sent it back to the National Assembly for consideration in September 2021, due to reservations surrounding its constitutionality.
The National Assembly has since passed the National Land Transport Amendment Bill and sent it to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence.
Last week, the South African Local Government Association rejected the Bill, raising concerns it was overlooking the authority of municipalities to set out their developmental agenda, through the Integrated Development Plan, according to Independent Online.