/ 2 June 2023

Bolt suspends pick-ups at Soweto Mall amid renewed taxi wars

Four Injured In Milnerton Taxi Violence
Commuters using minibus taxis will not see tariff increases just yet as taxi associations refrain from fare increases despite rising fuel costs.

E-hailing service Bolt said on Friday it had suspended operations of its drivers at certain pick-up and drop-off points at the Maponya Mall in Soweto to ensure their safety and those of passengers after clashes with metered-taxi drivers the previous night.

At least two vehicles were set alight outside the mall on Thursday night after taxi drivers allegedly launched an assault on Uber and Bolt drivers. 

“Bolt is aware of the incidents that took place at Maponya Mall yesterday where ride-hailing drivers’ vehicles were vandalised and drivers assaulted by taxi drivers,” the company’s regional manager for East and Southern Africa Takura Malaba said in a statement.

“It is important to note that Bolt does not compete with minibus taxis. Public transport has multiple modes, and Bolt acts as an important component of multimodal transport, and is an important option available for passengers.”

The company said it condemned criminal conduct and violence, in any form, against ride-hailing drivers because everyone had the right to earn a living and move around without the risk of harm, intimidation, coercion or fear of death or injury. 

“We have also escalated the issue with the management of Maponya Mall and also South African Police Services (SAPS), including crime intelligence, in order to ensure that the matter is closely monitored and to support the criminal investigations currently underway,” Malaba said.  

Responding to questions from the Mail & Guardian, a spokesperson for Uber said the company’s safety team was investigating Thursday night’s events “as a matter of urgency”.

“We are in close contact with the police and stand ready to help law enforcement with their investigation,” the spokesperson said.

Speaking on news channel Newzroom Afrika the spokesperson for the South African E-Hailing Association, Vhatuka Mbelengwa, said the violence was the latest instalment in a decade-long row.

“I can tell you to, however, expect more eruptions like this all over the country. The frustration of the transportation industry, the taxi industry is going to gain expression through such acts over the next few weeks,” Mbelengwa said.

The Mail & Guardian recently reported that, with fewer workers commuting to offices in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the public transport sector has seen a decline in business. On average, 39% of South Africans earning above R10 000 a month are splitting their time between their traditional workplace and home or another remote location, according to BrandMapp, an independent landscape study of economically active South African adults. 

This means that there are fewer customers which the transport industry, including the e-hailing sector, are fighting for. 
In 2017, drivers contracted to Uber and Taxify launched a fight-back against what they said was constant victimisation from metered-taxi drivers. They resorted to keeping “spotters” in violent hot spots and a “cavalry” poised to spring into action at the drop of a location pin on their WhatsApp group.