Here’s why Uber and Bolt drivers are protesting in South Africa

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Drivers for apps such as Uber and Bolt demonstrated outside Parliament last week to demand that e-hailing services increase their fares and decrease the commission they take.

The protestors submitted their memorandum of demand to representatives of the labour and transport departments.

The rising cost of living in South Africa, combined with high petrol prices and the fact that fares have not been adjusted, means that the drivers are receiving less compensation.

“Ever since Uber came into South Africa, petrol was priced at R10 per litre, now petrol is R20, and Uber is still charging the same fares,” a protestor told eNCA.

Everything has gone up in price, including vehicle maintenance and insurance, which comes out of the driver’s pocket.

Speaking to eNCA, one of the protestors provided further information on their demands, which include:

  • Uber and Bolt have never increased their prices but still take a commission of 25%, which protestors want to be reduced to 13%.
  • Uber, Bolt, Didi, and InDriver must include the drivers’ committee in decision making.

“InDriver, we want them to put a minimum fare charge,” another said.

The drivers are also concerned about how they are treated by law enforcement and the ride-hailing companies themselves.

“Cape Town city must stop impounding the drivers. These drivers are working hard for themselves, and Cape Town city is abusing the drivers,” one protestor said.

Parliament building in the City of Cape Town

“They are taking the cars, and you go and complain about the drivers being robbed in Nyanga and Khayelitsha. They don’t respond.”

Another protestor told eNCA that “we want Uber to stop blocking and firing drivers without a hearing.

“They only listen to one side of the story, which is that of the passenger.”

“Bolt, Uber, and InDriver do not care about us [the drivers]. They only care about the customer.”

“They don’t prioritise drivers. For instance, if I get a trip that is in an unsafe place and I reject it, there is an activity that declines.”

“If that activity goes to a minimum range, then I am being blocked.”

The protestors want their grievances to be addressed within seven days, or they will be back in greater force.

MyBroadband reached out to the ride-hailing services for comment.

Frans Hiemstra, General Manager of Sub Saharan Africa at Uber, told MyBroadband that the company would continue to engage with drivers to improve their experiences.

Frans Hiemstra, Uber General Manager for Sub Saharan Africa

“We take the concerns of drivers seriously and are currently engaging directly using our various engagement channels to work towards addressing the issues,” he said.

“Our commitment to drivers is to continuously find ways of maximising their earning potential while meeting the needs of the riders.”

Gareth Taylor, SADC Regional Manager at Bolt, told MyBroadband that they respect their drivers’ right to protest but unequivocally condemn any violent acts.

“Any driver found participating in threatening or violent acts towards other drivers or members of the public will be suspended from the platform,” Taylor said.

“Bolt continually looks for ways to increase driver earnings, including incentivising passengers, launching new categories, establishing partnerships with other brands, and marketing the Bolt platform to attract passengers,” he added.

A spokesperson for DiDi told MyBroadband that many of its driver-partners also complete trips for other ride-hailing companies, indicating that the gathering at Parliament today was in protest of the industry-standard commission structure.

“DiDi currently offers the lowest commission rate of 13% amongst all e-hailing services in SA,” they said.

“In addition, earlier this month, we launched two new driver initiatives that will enable new driver-partners to earn up to R1,000 in bonuses within their first two weeks of driving for DiDi.”

Main Image: The Atlantic

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