Source: Victoria Fakiya/Techpoint

South African ride-hailing drivers, including Uber, Bolt, and InDrive, plan to turn off their e-hailing apps starting July 17, 2023, due to ongoing safety concerns and low pay.

The national shutdown may leave many people stranded, significantly reducing the number of available ride-hailing drivers, and could extend into the week.

The Private Public Transport Association spokesperson, Vhatuka Mbelengwa, says there is no strategy for the shutdown. So, customers can still get drivers on Monday and for the rest of the week.

He adds that although ride-hailing apps might see a drop in service, a total shutdown is unlikely to follow.

Drivers are demanding that e-hailing companies and the government address all of their concerns, including the regulation of the industry and the reduction of “extremely high” commissions charged by companies.

For context, in June 2023, ride-hailing drivers in South Africa were banned from working in Soweto malls to prevent further conflicts between e-hailing drivers and their taxi counterparts. 

Besides, Soweto United E-hailing Association Chairperson, Thato Ramaila, claims that low commissions exploit drivers, with Uber and other services taking a “ridiculous” 30% cut of the money their drivers make.

Further, South African ride-hailing drivers are also concerned about ongoing safety issues such as carjacking, illegal vehicle impoundment, and taxi drivers singling out ride-hailing drivers.

Mbelengwa claims this is not a formally organised strike with a start and end date but a call to drivers to join the cause. 

However, he stresses that potential disruptions are to be expected, and South Africans who intend to use the apps should be cautious.

Takura Malaba, Bolt’s Regional Manager for East and Southern Africa, claims that the company is aware of the strike’s potential and supports the right of its drivers to demonstrate.

In 2020, Uber and Bolt temporarily stopped operations due to high commissions, resulting in lower income and safety concerns.

While the commission they paid to e-hailing companies continued to rise, they complained that increasing prices and low discounts were causing their income to fall.

Source: Victoria Fakiya/Techpoint