Here’s why you might be struggling to get an e-hailing trip in some Cape Town townships

“I would never take trips from Nyanga and Philippi” says Uber driver

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People living in communities like Khayelitsha, Philippi and Mitchells Plain often battle to get e-hailing trips as hijackings and other crime increasingly contributes to drivers not wanting to work in these communities. Photo: Qaqamba Falithenjwa

If you live in one of Cape Town’s townships such as Gugulethu, Khayelitsha, Philippi and Mitchells Plain and you don’t have a car, getting around is often hard. One reasons is that e-hailing services don’t always operate in these areas due to serious safety concerns.

We spoke to residents who regularly use e-hailing services as well as drivers who operate in these areas. The main issue they raised is safety.

Earlier this week, GroundUp reported on the pothole ridden roads in Samora Machel which are also filthy with overflowing sewage from burst drains. Taxis and a few Uber drivers say they battle their way through the rampant crime and poor state of the roads.

One of our reporters, Qaqamba Falithenjwa, lives in Samora Machel, Philippi. She said Bolt operates in the area. “The service was still working fine about a year ago, but even then you could only request a ride in the afternoons and before nightfall,” she said.

“Now it doesn’t matter what time of day or the location of my destination, it is highly unlikely that I will get a ride,” said Falithenjwa.

She said she found a way around this by getting the personal number of a Bolt and Uber driver who lives in Samora Machel. So when she needs a ride, she contacts him. Falithenjwa understands that e-hailing services in Samora Machel face the challenge of crime, like hijackings and muggings that occur almost daily as well as the terrible state of the roads.

Gugulethu resident Simamkele Sili uses e-hailing operators Uber, Bolt and InDrive to get around. “I don’t have a car, so I am dependent on cabs. I don’t like using minibus taxis because they drop me far from my house and walking that distance is not safe,” she said.

Sili said that she has noted in recent months that she has had more issues when trying to request a cab from her home. “So when I need to go somewhere, I open all three apps and alternate between all of them until someone accepts my trip.

“The worst is when a driver accepts the trip, but a few minutes later cancels it. I think drivers are scared because of hijackings and muggings. Sometimes when they call I reassure them that the part of Gugs I am in is safe,” said Sili.

We spoke to a Zimbabwean man who works for Uber, Bolt and InDrive. “If I get a trip to Khayelitsha, after accepting a trip, I always phone the client and ask their exact location, how many they are and whether the particular area they are in is safe.

“This is a safety measure for me because it helps me determine whether I should continue the trip or cancel. I also try to pick up female passengers only, especially in the evening or night,” he said.

The driver lives in Milnerton and has been a cab driver since 2018. He said he had not experienced any incident, but said that his friend was hijacked in Nyanga last year.

“I would never take trips from Nyanga and Philippi. Those places are dangerous, and cab drivers are always targeted,” he said.

On operating in Gugulethu, the driver said the biggest challenge for him is competing with the minibus taxis and amaphelas.

An Uber South Africa spokesperson said as independent contractors, drivers are allowed to choose whether or not to make themselves available for a trip request.

In terms of trip cancellations, Uber said while the reasons for cancellations vary, and were uncommon, one of the reasons behind cancellations was “driver preference”, with some drivers choosing to focus exclusively on longer journeys for more money.

Uber also launched several safety features for drivers and riders to mitigate some of the issues that come with working in particular communities.

Takura Malaba, Bolt’s Regional Manager for East and Southern Africa, said they have received feedback that drivers mostly cancel trips because they don’t feel safe or comfortable, as well as passengers attempting to overload the vehicle.

“Bolt provides drivers with sufficient information to help them decide whether they want to accept the trip. These include the passenger’s rating, after accepting the trip the driver can see the number of trips the passenger has completed. Bolt also shares information about dangerous hotspots. This gives the driver the option and the freedom to choose whether they want to continue with the trip.”

Malaba said Bolt’s mapping team developed area demarcations that notes the prevalence of crime. Areas currently included on this map include Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Philippi, Nyanga, Mitchells Plain, Browns Farm, Crossroads and Delft.

Both Uber and Bolt have a few safety features. Uber and Bolt have an in-App emergency button which dispatches armed security to your location within minutes. However, police and private security officers aren’t known for providing speedy services in many poor communities. Uber also allows for audio recording, GPS tracking and safety check-up.

Bolt also offers free counselling to drivers and passengers following any traumatic incident. Their drivers are also covered by Bolt Trip Protection, insurance that covers emergency medical expenses.

Correction on 2023-09-01 09:20

After publication, the communications PR team requested that we only attribute their quotes to UBER and not a specific spokesperson.

TOPICS:  Transport

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