Disgruntled commuters startled over Bolt’s sight on expansion in Africa

Don Mthethwa

Bolt SA has yet to hire a new country manager for South Africa following Takura Malaba’s ascension to Nairobi-based position of regional manager for East and Southern Africa soon.

Commuters of the e-hailing company Bolt have expressed their dissatisfaction as the company sets sights on expansion in Africa, with anticipation of big growth expected in South Africa.

This follows numerous pursuits to get the company to respond to public outcry against the company’s neglect over security concerns that have become life-threatening for those who use the company’s service.

South Africa has notoriously high levels of violence against women. The latest police figures show that 10,818 rape cases were reported in the first quarter of 2022.

Over the past few months there has been outrage, anger and heartbreak play out over social media, following the terrible trauma suffered by a passenger while she was on a Bolt ride. The outrage is preceded by disgruntled commuters often sharing their experiences and the alleged oversight by the e-hailing company.

In an open letter penned in March last year (2022) to South Africa and shared on the company’s platform, Bolt’s Regional Manager (of SADC) Gareth Taylor ‘assures’ that Bolt does everything it can to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers, in the context of South Africa’s complex society, though many commuters are not convinced. Taylor acknowledged the reported incidents and added that they betray everyone’s hope of a safe, secure South Africa.

Among the incidents reportedly experienced through the Bolt platform, it is alleged that a number of drivers operating on the platform have rented out or bought profiles without undergoing the rigorous registration procedure, notably as an act of fraud. It is deplorable that some of these persons are perpetrators in gruesome acts of violence, rape and theft against commuters while operating the platform.

Commuters have been eagerly waiting to see drastic steps taken to ensure their safety. It is noted that the company allegedly provides less to no responses on some of these incidents at a time when complainants and victims are desperate for a response, dismissing Malaba’s mention of the company having sufficient channels of engagement.

While Malaba affirms that Bolt was a market leader in e-hailing in South Africa, saying they were edging out rivals Uber in the market, South Africans have turned to Uber as a safer option given the company’s security over its platforms and transparent measures to mitigate risks.

Malaba’s responses touched on enabling security for drivers and less on the safety of commuters as the company moves towards implementing its growth plan.