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By Marizka Coetzer


E-hailing drivers attack and disarm police officer during a protest at union buildings

The demands included better earning rates and safety for all e-hailing drivers.

Despite last-minute negotiations on Monday between the Gauteng MEC of transport and Unity in Diversity, angry e-hailing drivers took to the streets on Tuesday in a planned three-day strike in Gauteng.

The drivers switched off their apps in protest against alleged exploitation from companies such as Uber, Bolt and Didi, and have called on the government to step in to regulate the industry.

The peaceful protest took a violent turn when a group of drivers disarmed and injured a police officer at the Union Buildings on the second leg of the first day of the protest.

“These individuals stopped an unmarked police vehicle and in the process injured the police officer and took his firearm,” the Public Private Transport Association’s Vhatuka Mbelengwa said.

Its leaders intervened, recovered the firearm and handed it over. On Monday, Gauteng MEC of Gauteng public transport and roads infrastructure Jacob Mamabolo along with officials from the Gauteng department of roads and transport met with the action group representing the e-hailing driver partners to discuss planned strike action.

The drivers proceeded with the protest and handed over a memorandum at the department of trade, industry and competition at the Union Buildings. The demands included better earning rates and safety for all e-hailing drivers. Driver Thembuluwo Rasirubu said they don’t feel safe on the job.

“We don’t have support from a union or anything when the taxi industry takes our money. “I have a family to support and I depend on this business to support us,” he said.

ALSO READ: Mamabolo urges e-hailing drivers to call off three-day national shutdown

Rasirubu said the government should reduce the petrol fees and subsidise drivers who were being exploited. A driver who agreed to talk anonymously in fear of being targeted said the drivers needed urgent protection. He said between December and February, eight drivers had been killed and one was still missing.

“We need cameras to protect us and the commuters,” he said.

“We are getting killed daily.”

Another driver, Sinondala Mugimela, said they wanted an increase in the pay per kilometre.

“We want R12 or R13/km, not R9. We can’t live on the R18 we make per two kilometres,” Mugimela said.

Driver Justice Sibi said the e-hailing service had to be regulated to stop the exploitation. Other issues included the verification of customers and the regulation of passengers paying per person, and not four people riding along for R9/km.

“There are also minors opening accounts at these companies. If they don’t pay us, who is being held accountable,” he said. Sibi said the companies must do away with the “evil contracts”.

He said some drivers were being charged more than R8 000 to drive a Toyota a month.

“They are forcing us to take cars and expecting us to pay it off in three years. How is that possible with those ridiculous prices?”

Mugimela said: “Things are bad, we are losing money on the high petrol price.” Sibi said the base fare was also too low and needed to be increased.

“Companies are paying us R4 as a base fare and R4.20/km,” he said.

Sibi said they could not keep up: “In 2013 to fill up a 45-litre tank was R596 and today it’s R1 145.”

He said the drivers were earning peanuts while everything has gone up– from petrol to living expenses.

“We cannot survive with those prices. It’s ridiculous,” he said.

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