Bolt drivers being harassed and intimidated by meter taxis

The company has partnered with private security to ensure the safety of drivers

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E-hailing drivers say they are being targeted by meter taxi drivers in the Vaal, Gauteng. Photo source: https://blog.bolt.eu/en/rebranding/

  • E-hailing drivers say they are being targeted by meter taxi drivers in the Vaal Triangle.
  • Bolt SA says it is aware of an increase in harassment and intimidation incidents and has now partnered with a private security company to ensure the safety of drivers.

Meter taxi drivers downloaded Bolt apps and requested a ride as clients, said Bongani Lucky*, a Bolt driver in the Vaal Triangle in Gauteng. “When you get to the pickup point it’s not the client but the meter taxi drivers…I was lucky because they listened to me but usually they just beat you and take your money,” he said.

According to Lucky, violence and threats by meter taxi drivers towards e-hailing drivers in the Vaal increased during the Covid-19 lockdown. Lucky said he had been stopped by meter taxi drivers about five times since joining Bolt in February.

“They wait for you at the spots where there are a lot of clients like the shopping malls and threaten you. It’s really hard for us, especially at the end of the month because that’s when people request us a lot and we make money,” he said.

Lucky now drives over 80km a day to and from Johannesburg to work there after meter taxi drivers threatened to “burn me with my car if they saw me working in the Vaal again.” The area includes Vereeniging, Sasolburg and Vanderbijlpark. He is afraid to go into town with his family in his car because the meter taxi drivers will think he is operating and may harm his family.

He said several drivers had tried to report incidents to police but had been told to sort the problem out with the meter taxi associations.

He rents a car from a fleet owner, paying R2,000 a week.

The fleet owner, who asked not to be named, said one of his cars had been confiscated by the meter taxi drivers. “They posed as a client and requested a driver to come to a shopping mall. When he arrived, five cars surrounded him and confiscated the car. They said I had to pay R2,000 if I wanted my car back, which I eventually paid to protect the driver,” he told GroundUp.

He said that the feud between e-hailing and meter taxis was common across Gauteng, but was worse in Vereeniging. “I just can’t believe that this is allowed to happen. People have to go to work and fear for their lives.”

Gareth Taylor, country manager for Bolt in SA, said that the company was aware of an increase in harassment and intimidation incidents allegedly perpetrated by meter taxi drivers against e-hailing drivers in Vereeniging.

Taylor said Bolt had partnered with Namola — a security response app — via an in-app emergency button that shares the driver’s details and location with Namola’s 24/7 call centre if the driver is in danger. He said Namola then deploys private security and emergency services immediately.

“Drivers can also decline a trip if they are concerned about the safety of the pick-up location, without this impacting on their rating,” he said. But Lucky said it was difficult to know whether the pick-up location was dangerous because the meter taxi drivers posed as clients when they requested a driver.

Sedibeng District Municipality spokesperson, Saviour Kgaswane, said several meetings had been held on this issue. “Sedibeng District Municipality strongly condemn such acts of violence and extortion. A number of cases have been reported and the SAPS is constantly briefing the committee about the developments,” he said.

Kgaswane said if any meter taxi operators were found to be implicated in acts of violence and extortion, the municipality and provincial department would withdraw their operating licenses.

He said it was not the responsibility of the municipality to protect the Bolt drivers.

*Not his real name.

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Write a letter in response to this article

Letters

Dear Editor

In response to your article regarding a vehicle impounded by metered taxis in Gauteng, I needed to place my concerns in writing and suggest that a positive story would better serve our industry and country.

While I don’t have the facts at hand, it is totally unacceptable for any person to impound other than Traffic Officers and SAPS. I have written for your publication and contributed to other articles over the years and am currently Chairperson of Section Sixty Six Co-Operative, representing both meter taxis and e-hailing operators in the Western Cape.

So much energy, mediation and even legislation have gone into creating a united body for both meter taxis and e-hailing (which are now referred to as metered taxis in legislation). It was concerning to see that some may depict a national divide between taxis and e-hailing when, in fact, it’s a single mode. The Western Cape has no disputes, battles or concerns amongst legal operators: we all function as a single mode of public transport and most operate on a platform of their choice. Most of the minibus taxis being impounded in the Western Cape have no legal right to operate as public transport vehicles and operate outside the radius provided for in Operating Licenses (OLs). A resolution taken at the National Lekgotla is that no illegal public transport vehicle will be allowed on our roads. The issue with the allocation of OLs and the areas of operation is a matter for the department and the City. In our case, however, an application for an OL does not give you the right to operate. The massive increase in platforms and the total disregard for basic law and order, together with a lack in the capacity of law enforcement has made this issue unmanageable.

The violence and crime perpetrated by illegal operators in our community are also unacceptable.

As an industry, we have an established body in the Western Cape and an interim national structure for our mode. Meter taxi mode is the future of public transport and, as such, the government needs to look ahead and support it. We already see the impact on other modes of transport and, ultimately, the public will decide what mode best suits them. The multinational platforms need to answer why they continue to flood our industry with illegal vehicles and create expectations for those entering the market and hampering the growth of the legal industry.