Uber driver banks on three-day national strike

E-hailing prices have spiked due to protest

“I am working because there is a lot of money to be made. Uber prices have gone up today.”

These are the words of Washington, an Uber driver, on Tuesday morning as he picked me up from Johannesburg CBD to work in Parktown. The 3km trip would normally cost me R26 but on Tuesday it went up to R93. This was purely because of the e-haling drivers national protest which will last until Thursday. The spike in costs has been the results of the strike, which has seen few drivers being available to take trips.  

The drivers are demanding for the regulation of their industry and calling for the exploitation by the owners of platforms such as Uber, Bolt and Bolt, InDriver and DiDi. They claim to be taking only 30% from the money they make per trip. The strike started at the Union Building in Pretoria and will end in Johannesburg as the drivers are expected to meet Gauteng transport MEC Jacob Mamabolo.

There have been reported incidents of intimidation of non-striking drivers.

Walking up to the car, Washington had to verify my name at least three times while I stood outside the vehicle. Still with doubt in his eyes, he manually opened the door because he feared danger befalling him due to his decision to work while his peers were on strike.

I was subjected to further verification while I sat in the back seat. “My sister, are you sure you are Amanda,” he asked again. This time around he seemed to be at ease to drive me to work.

“The next three days are like Christmas for us who are willing to work,” he said jokingly. “Because of the limited drivers available, the app has hiked the prices and I know I will make more than what I normally make,” he said.

He normally pockets between R700 and R800 per day. But for the next few days he is gunning to make just over R1,000 which will cover his weekly expenses and leave some change. 

He also expressed how he couldn't afford driving all the way from Johannesburg to Pretoria and burning the already expensive petrol to attend a strike when he has a family to provide for. 

“My job is not like yours, where you are guaranteed a salary. I need to provide for my family and I can’t afford not to work,” also adding that not being from SA has added a lot of pressure in making ends meet. 

“Before taking you, I transported a lawyer from Rosettenville to Joburg magistrate's court and that trip cost R251. Normally that trip would have been just over R100.”

Because of the danger of working now, he regrettably shared that he had to turn down a trip from Rosettenville to Pretoria because, “a lot of these drivers are there and they will attack me for working. My brother called me and told me how he was attacked earlier this morning and that his phone was taken so that he doesn’t work. So we are extra careful,” he said. 

Washington said he supported the intentions of his striking peers as they were being exploited.

“Things are so bad because you’ll even get a trip that will only charge R10. Imagine transporting someone for R10 and then Uber/Bolt will want 30% from that amount. How will I survive?” he asks. 

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