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The Western Cape Government is calling on Uber, Bolt and drivers of other ehailing companies to practice caution when operating in parts of Cape Town.
In a statement released this week, the provincial minister of community safety Albert Fritz called to attention the recent spate of ehailing “hijackings” on the Cape Flats.
“I have received reports of increased hijackings taking place in Nyanga. It is my concern that we are seeing a form of crime displacement known as ‘type of crime’ displacement following the recent SANDF and SAPS joint operations,” he said.
The statement also recommended drivers be “cautious in hotspot areas which include Govan Mbeki Road in Philippi, Bristol and Sheffield Roads in Browns Farm, Klipfontein Road, Miller Road and Eisleben roads in Nyanga and Crossroads”.
Fritz also called on Uber, Bolt and the other ehailing companies that operate in the Western Cape to “take measures to ensure the safety of drivers and their customers”.
Ehailing companies respond to Western Cape Government’s warnings
Uber however believes that the safety of all relies chiefly on law enforcement.
“Crime is an unfortunate reality for all road users in South Africa and ultimately, we need to rely on law enforcement to ensure they keeping the community safe,” Uber told Memeburn in an emailed statement.
“We remain committed to the safety of both riders and driver-partners and have a number of safety features available to those who use the Uber app to accept or request rides such as injury protection from Chubb Insurance, access to an In-App emergency assistance button and 24/7 in-app support.”
Bolt issued the following statement:
“Bolt is aware of an increase in the number of hijacking and robbery incidents committed against ride-hailing drivers in Nyanga, Cape Town,” its country manager Gareth Taylor told Memeburn in an email.
“Bolt unequivocally condemns violence of any form directed towards our ride-hailing driver-partners.
“We believe absolutely that every South African has the right to earn a living and move around without risk of harm, intimidation, coercion, or fear of death or injury,” Taylor continued.
“We engage with our driver-partners through a variety of channels, both electronic and face-to-face, and are continuously developing tools that have a real impact on addressing the safety concerns of drivers. We already have a number of safety features in place. This includes a partnership with Namola via an in-app integrated SOS emergency button that shares the driver’s details and location with Namola’s 24/7 call centre, which deploys private security and emergency services immediately.
“Bolt also shares information from Namola and other sources about danger hotspots with drivers regularly, and drivers can to decline a trip if they are concerned about the safety of the pick-up location.
“Bolt continually works with all stakeholders in the transport industry, national, provincial and local government, as well as the Metro Police and SAPS to improve safety for ride-hailing drivers across South Africa. We have proactively reached out to the Western Cape Provincial Minister of Community Safety, Albert Fritz, to discuss this issue further,” it concluded.
Areas around Nyanga, Browns Farm and Crossroads have been identified as hijacking hotspots
As ehailing’s popularity grows in the country’s largest cities, hijackings have also grown more prevalent.
In June, two Cape Town men were arrested and convicted for robbing and hijacking Uber drivers in Bellville.
It’s an issue in other metropolitan areas in South Africa too. A similar incident took place earlier this month, but in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, when two men kidnapped an Uber driver. However Uber does not believe that the above incident involved one of its drivers.
“Uber’s Incident Response Team has looked into the incident and confirmed this trip was not booked using Uber’s technology therefore this is unrelated to Uber,” it told us in another email.
“We cannot allow the booming e-hailing industry to be put under siege by criminals. This industry empowers many individuals residing within the province as it provides countless job opportunities, improves the economy and makes the province more accessible for tourists,” Fritz concluded.
And the ehailing market is growing locally too. Two more ehailing companies have started operating in Cape Town and Johannesburg this year, including Russia’s InDriver, and homegrown service Taxi Live Africa.
Edit: We’ve added comment from Uber South Africa, additional comment regarding an incident in Port Elizabeth, and comment from Bolt South Africa.
Feature image: Memeburn