NEWS

Drivers Under Attack: Uber And Police Are 'Letting Us Down'

In the latest attack, two more cars were petrol-bombed.

08/09/2017 16:35 SAST | Updated 08/09/2017 16:35 SAST
Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Firefighters extinguish a car that police said was set on fire during a confrontation between Uber and meter taxi drivers in Sandton, South Africa, September 7, 2017.

Uber drivers say they feel let down by Uber and law enforcement agencies in South Africa after a series of violent attacks.

A group of drivers calling themselves "The Movement" have said they have tried to do everything in their power to raise awareness about safety issues affecting Uber drivers; however, they say little has been done to ensure their security.

On Tuesday night, two more Uber vehicles were petrol-bombed in Sandton. There have been several incidents of Uber drivers and passengers being harassed or attacked by metered taxi drivers in South Africa.

The group said: "It is sad that it has to reach this level before the authorities step in. We feel let down by Uber, the police and relevant authorities.

"We have had a march and two sit-ins at the office. We have draughted a petition to the minister [of transport] and made numerous attempts to make a date to hand it over, all to no avail," the organisation said in a statement.

After the Uber cars were torched, angry Uber drivers retaliated and attacked stationary metered taxis as well as those driving through the area. A metered taxi was torched near the Sandton Convention Centre.

The drivers say they many have tried peaceful methods to solving this ongoing conflict, but "unfortunately, some drivers feel retaliation is the only way".

Uber SA has issued a statement condemning the violence and said it was investigating the circumstances of Thursday night's attack on its drivers. It says it is relieved that the driver of one of the vehicles registered to use its application was not injured.

"Perpetrators of violence and intimidation will be immediately dealt with in terms of the applicable laws. We call upon members of the public to be vigilant and report any acts of lawlessness, perceived or real, to the nearest Police Station..."

Meanwhile, the transport department said it would have continuous engagements with the SA Meter Taxi Association and e-hailing services -- which include Uber, Taxify and Zebracabs -- in order to bring stability to the industry.

The department also said it would be working closely with law enforcement agencies to monitor all the identified hotspots.

"Perpetrators of violence and intimidation will be immediately dealt with in terms of the applicable laws. We call upon members of the public to be vigilant and report any acts of lawlessness, perceived or real, to the nearest police station..." Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi reiterated.

The spike in Uber attacks
This is not the first time that Uber drivers have been attacked by metered taxi operators. Since its inception in 2013, there have been complaints by meter taxi drivers who say they are unable to compete with cheap Uber prices.

In June, a driver was attacked with a petrol bomb while on duty. Lindelani Mashau's vehicle was near Loftus Versveld stadium in Pretoria when he was allegedly attacked by metered taxi drivers. He later died from burn wounds.

Uber driver Kgomotso Tiro had acid poured on his face while transporting a client. The attack left him with third-degree burns on his hands and caused severe damage on his face and neck.

Tiro told the media at a briefing that he was getting flashbacks of his attacker's laughter as the acid was eating into his skin. Tiro said he wanted nothing to do with money paid to him by Uber while he was in hospital.

Although Uber made a financial contribution of R39‚000 into his brother's bank account after he was hospitalised, he accused the company of showing little regard for his wellbeing.

"Nobody from Uber came to see me when I was in hospital. I learnt from my girlfriend that Uber deposited ... money into my brother's account without explaining what is it for."