Big win for Uber and Bolt in South Africa

President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed the amended National Land Transport Act into law, enabling ride-hailing service operators in South Africa to apply for operating licences like any other public transport officer.

This comes after a 13-year wait to amend the act to accommodate ride-hailing services.

Transport minister Sindisiwe Chikunga welcomed the amended act’s signing into law.

“Now that the President has signed the Amendment Bill, regulations will be submitted to the Office of the State Law Advisor for certification and submitted to the Minister for approval,” Chikunga’s department said in a statement.

The changes mean that regulations will no longer require ride-hailing services to use charter permits and meter taxi operating licences in South Africa.

“This Bill amends the National Land Transport Act of 2009 to bring it up to date with developments since the implementation and simplifies various provisions or solves problems that have arisen since the implementation; and makes provisions for non-motorized and accessible transport,” added Chikunga.

“The NLTA now reflects our commitment to a modern, inclusive, and efficient transport system.”

It also expands the minister’s powers to implement regulations and safety measures while streamlining administrative arrangements for operating licences.

The inability of ride-hailing services to get operating licences in South Africa has been a point of contention for some time.

In March 2020, former transport minister Fikile Mbalula said he had submitted the amended act to the national assembly for consideration.

He said the amendments not only create a new category of operating licences, but also imposes obligations on technology providers to prevent illegal operators on their platforms.

He said those who don’t comply will be punished with a penalty of up to R100,000.

“The bill also seeks to strengthen regulations and empowers Provincial Regulatory Entities to withdraw or suspend operating license where an operator has contravened the National Land and Transport or the Roads Act,” said Mbalula.

“It further deals with issues of handling of public complaints and treatment of passengers; colour coding as well as ensuring that SAPS, metro police have not business interest in the operations of public transport.”

He said the changes should help to reduce conflict between metered taxi and ride-hailing drivers.

In February 2020, the Competition Commission published its provisional report on ride-hailing and metred taxis in South Africa, revealing that 79% of ride-hailing operators were providing the service without valid operating licences.

“In general, both metered taxis and e-hailing operators face some regulatory challenges with respect to operating licences and massive backlogs at the provincial regulatory entities (PREs),” it said.

“As in other jurisdictions, the South African regulatory regime is not yet specifically designed to regulate the e-hailing services.”

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Big win for Uber and Bolt in South Africa