11/09/2017 12:52 SAST | Updated 13/09/2017 09:37 SAST

Uber Customers: Screw Petitions, We Want To Be Protected

Minister and officials to visit site where Uber cars were torched.

Uber drivers protest on the M1 in Johannesburg.
Lebogang Magolego
Uber drivers protest on the M1 in Johannesburg.

South Africans on Monday lashed out at Uber for its "inconsiderate and shallow petition" that, according to them, does not in any way solve the escalating attacks on Uber drivers.

"Those Zulu men don't care about petitions. Something that will threaten their business is the only thing that will work," Uber user Palesa Loselo told HuffPost SA.

Uber on Friday released a petition to be signed to end violence against Uber drivers. It hopes to hand over the petition to the transport and police ministries soon.

Another customer, Lebo Magolego, believes the petition is "shallow".

"I don't think its strong enough. If it was about having laws against the violence, it would be different," she said.

Sibusiso Vilakazi uttered similar sentiments.

"How many petitions have been signed before?" he asked.

"It can come up with some suggestions [through the petition], but it will not solve the problem."

Since July, there have been more than 200 recorded incidents of violence against drivers reported nationwide, and still, no meaningful intervention or arrests have been made.

Last week, an Uber vehicle was petrol-bombed in Sandton. After the Uber cars were torched, angry Uber drivers retaliated and attacked stationary metered taxis as well as those driving in the area.

Uber SA has issued a statement condemning the violence and said it was investigating the circumstances around the attacks. It says it was relieved that the driver of one of the vehicles registered to use its application was not injured.

On Friday, general manager at Uber Sub-Saharan Africa, Alon Lits, said: "We are extremely disappointed that this violence against Uber driver-partners continues and that policy makers and regulators are blaming this violent behaviour on a "turf war"."

Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi also said the attacks were unacceptable.

"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," Maswanganyi said.

Police have since been monitoring the situation at the Sandton Gautrain station.

The minister is expected to host a walkabout at the station on Monday.

Maswanganyi will be accompanied by the acting MEC for transport in Gauteng, Nandi Mayathula-Khoza, MEC for community safety, Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane, and senior government officials.

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 metered taxi drivers who say they are unable to compete with cheaper Uber prices.

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

In a separate incident last month, 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 to his face and neck.

Tiro told a media briefing after the incident 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.

"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 it was for," Tiro said on August 22.

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.

Disclaimer - This story has been edited after publication.