New law introduces stricter rules for Uber in South Africa

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

A new bill which introduces regulations for e-hailing services, Uber and Bolt, is expected to help prevent violence between metered taxis and others in the public transport sector, according to the department of Transport.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula on Tuesday briefed media on the National Land Transport Amendment Bill, which he will introduce before the national assembly this afternoon.

"One of the most important aspects of the bill is the regulation of e-hailing services. It creates a new category for operating licences and imposes certain obligations on technology providers not to allow illegal operators on their technology platforms," Mbalula said.

If platforms like Uber and Bolt host partners which do not have operating licences, they could be penalised with a fine as much as R100 000, Mbalula said.

According to a recent Competition Commission report, between 35% and 55% of Uber drivers are operating without a valid licence. 

The bill also empowers provincial regulatory entities to withdraw or suspend an operating licence from an operator which has contravened the National Land Transport Act or the Roads Traffic Act, he added.

The minister is optimistic that the bill will also be able to address the conflict between metered taxi drivers and e-hailing service providers. The "impasse" between metered taxis and e-hailing services was mainly due to the lack of regulation for e-hailing services, Mbalula said.

Metered taxis had limited zones in which they had to operate, whereas upon the arrival of the "disruptive app" Uber, e-hailing service providers were not limited by zones and they could even deliver food through Uber Eats, the minister explained.

Mbalula added that e-hailing providers had welcomed the regulations and made submissions while the bill was prepared. He had met with the metered taxi industry and e-hailing service providers, who have been "part and parcel of the process" and are "on board" with it, he said. 

Commenting on the bill, Transport Director-General Alec Moemi said that while the department looked at international examples, the violent conflicts between metered taxi drivers and e-hailing service providers meant a "homegrown" solution had to be developed. 

Conflict of interest

Mbalula said the bill also deals with the conflict interest of law enforcement officers such a members of the SA Police Service having business interests in the public transport space. "You can't be a taxi operator by day and a traffic law enforcer by night," Mbalula quipped. The bill ensures that this conflict of interest with those who are supposed to enforce the law does not exist, he explained.

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