What is being done to end Uber attacks?
THERE’S a low-intensity war being waged on our streets, in our suburbs in fact, and no one seems to be taking much notice of it.
Uber drivers are being targeted by metered taxi drivers; in some instances they’re being physically attacked and their cars torched. A couple of drivers have died.
Try to get an Uber ride when you emerge from the Sandton Gautrain station and you’ll see what I mean.
The drivers – if they don’t just cancel the trip then and there – will phone you and ask you to stand a couple of blocks away.
It’s not just Sandton; Gautrain’s Hatfield station in Pretoria has also become a no-go area for some of them.
This week, traffic cops started pulling over Toyota Corollas in Joburg and Midrand and impounding some of them for not having the required permits.
There’s no talk of metered taxis being pulled over, even less of them being impounded.
There certainly doesn’t seem to have been any movement in the investigation into the arsonists who set three Uber cars alight in Sandton last week.
Instead, the cops blithely pull over the Corollas, walk around to the driver’s side and look for the tell-tale air-con-mounted cellphone running the Uber app. The drivers don’t have permits.
Some say they’ve applied and have proof, which the cops ignore. Others claim they never had to have permits in the first place.
The net result is that the Uber drivers are becoming scared and frustrated.
One I spoke to this week said his earnings had halved in less than a fortnight.
There are too many no-go areas, too much strife. It’s not worth losing your life, he said, for a R100 fare, when you have to make R3 000 a week to pay for the rental of your car and another R2 000 for fuel at the same time.
He’s seriously thinking of getting out and doing something else. He won’t be the only one. It’s a great sadness, because Uber works. It’s revitalised the moribund metered taxi industry with its insistence on new vehicles, vetted criminal record-free drivers, assurances on fares and totally empowered users.
Ironically, it’s all of this which makes it such a success and precisely why the metered taxi drivers are so threatened.
But even if we accept this as the underlying root of the strife, why is the official reaction so muted?
How many more signs do we need of this crisis? How many people must actually die before the police act?
We can’t even argue that we have become inured to taxi violence in this country, because the minibus taxis aren’t even involved – at this stage, they’re probably a whole lot safer than Uber.
The question then is: who is involved in the violence? Are they preventing proper action from being taken to stop this low-level war once and for all?
More to the point, though, where is Uber in all of this? Why isn’t it getting court interdicts to protect its drivers? Why isn’t it screaming blue murder, literally, from the rooftops?
I fear we are sitting on a time bomb that’s a whole lot bigger than just an industrial dispute turned bloody.