Earlier this year, e-hailing taxi drivers took part in a protest and went “offline” to alert the public to the conditions under which drivers were working. They complained that rising petrol prices were lowering their income, while at the same time the commission they pay to e-hailing companies was increasing.

Drivers were also concerned about their safety, largely because of congestion on the app they use to raise an alarm.

Vhatuka Mbelengwa, spokesperson for all e-hailing operators, said in a statement that talks between them and their companies have reached a stalemate as their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

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Uber has more than 12 000 active drivers in South Africa.

Mbelengwa advised Uber and Taxify users to find alternative transport from Monday until the situation changes, and apologised for any disruptions that will be caused.

“We have come to realise that we can no longer negotiate with Uber and Taxify. We admit we have gone wrong in even attempting to do so. Slavery is a system that only deserves abolishment without compromise,” he said.

“We refuse to continue to accept silence and to be marginalised by our government whilst Uber and Taxify exploit us without any sign of relenting.

He said drivers have decided to suspend all their services until Transport Minister Blade Nzimande and other key stakeholders commit to much-needed, urgent reforms.

“The circumstance we face as participants is destroying our lives daily and our government looks away. This intense burn we feel must now be felt by Minister Nzimande as he continues to fail to exercise his powers and responsibilities as Transport Minister,” Mbelengwa said.

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“We are certain government officials have been corrupted by Uber and Taxify and, in addition, they lack the capacity to comprehend the e-hailing sector. We stand in unity as operators and we say [that] without this, the industry cannot thrive and in that spirit we say it will no longer be business as usual as long as decisions are taken without us.”

Parliament is still deliberating proposed amendments to the National Land Transport Act, including a clause instructing e-hailing operators to deny access to their systems to any driver without the necessary operating licence.

Under the clause, ridesharing and e-hailing companies that fail to comply could pay a fine of up to R100 000. Drivers are also subject to the fine as well as two years’ imprisonment.

– African News Agency