Umm Muhammed Umar
The e-hailing protest action, which was to be on its third and final day on Thursday, turned violent earlier this week when a police officer, who was not in uniform, was assaulted by protesters. The police officer was allegedly mistaken for an e-hailer, as he was driving a white, unmarked Toyota Corolla, a similar model to those used by the e-hailers. Spokesperson for Gauteng transport, Theo Nkonki spoke to Radio Islam. He said that the incident had to be investigated by law enforcement, and that there were a number of such incidents.
Representatives from the MEC’s office met with representatives of the e-hailing drivers, and it was agreed that while the right to strike that was guaranteed by law, it should be properly marshalled, and without any violence. Further, the e-hailing services had agreed to call in more marshals, and to ensure that the strike represented correctly their message to government.
Nkonki said the strike was, for government, about national issues. He said, “after the strike, we’re going to come back and talk to each other again, and see how we can assist them with some of the grievances that they have.” Nkonki said that the conversation had already begun last year, when e-hailers had marched to the MEC’s offices, seeking assistance. He said that subsequent to that the relationship was formalized by the appointment of a mediator, who was going to arbitrate between them and the app companies or the technology companies that own the apps, “because essentially what they’re complaining about……(were) issues relating to their relationship with the app owners.” He stressed, “this is a relatively new industry, and certain things are not quite clear, and the relationship between the app owner, and what is called a partner, and driver, really needs to be clarified.” He said that a formal platform had been set up to address those issues, with the app owners onboard as well.
Nkonki admitted that the process had gone extremely slowly, but that moving forward the issues would be fast tracked. We must admit that that process was very, very slow. He said that the meeting held this past Monday with e-hailing partners and drivers, had been a positive one, and that “they also accepted that we are telling them that we have been slow in in trying to resolve the issues, but we are rectifying that and they say they’re interested in coming back to the table and negotiating those issues.”
E-hailing services, such as Uber, and Bolt, work on the app-based concept, and want government to regulate the industry. Police still investigating whether it was drivers themselves that were guilty of the violence earlier this week, or whether it was what’s commonly referred to as the ‘third force’ – those elements who attempt to destabilize, and use, strikes and protest action for their own for their own purposes.
Meanwhile, latest reports indicate that the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union and Cosatu had, on Thursday, embarked on a solidarity strike with e-hailing drivers. Satawu has committed itself to helping the drivers be victorious over the app partners. According to the drivers, Transport MEC Jacob Mamabolo failed to mediate the dispute. They have now threatened to extend the strike until the end of the week.