Uber war rages

Over 15 pick-up points de­clared no-go zones

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - NOKUTHULA ZWANE nokuthula.zwane@inl.co.za @Zwane_2li2ls

ABOUT 15 ar­eas have been deemed no-go zones for Uber driv­ers owing to the es­ca­la­tion of bloody clashes with me­tered-taxi op­er­a­tors that have claimed at least one life.

The Uber Driv­ers Move­ment yes­ter­day shared a list of the pick-up points that have seen their mem­bers beaten and their ve­hi­cles torched and shot at in the long-run­ning feud over pas­sen­gers.

Teresa Munchick, co-founder and rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the move­ment, which fights for the safety of Uber driv­ers and pas­sen­gers, said they were wor­ried that more lives could be lost in the “no-go ar­eas” if a so­lu­tion was not found.

Munchick added: “There are very spe­cific no-go zones like the Sum­mit Club in Hill­brow, Royal Park in Jou­bert Park, and the CBD (specif­i­cally around the Carl­ton Cen­tre) is bad. All Gau­train sta­tions (Park Sta­tion, Rose­bank, Sand­ton, Marl­boro, Cen­tu­rion, Hat­field and Pre­to­ria) are also dan­ger­ous. Trou­ble flares up in­ter­mit­tently, but at Park Sta­tion there is al­ways trou­ble. Un­for­tu­nately, the malls have also been tar­geted, East­gate, Mall of Africa and South­gate have had some re­ports of vi­o­lence.”

Munchick’s warn­ings fol­low the death of an Uber part­ner driver, Lin­de­lani Mashau, who suc­cumbed to se­ri­ous burn wounds yes­ter­day morn­ing.

Mashau was in his car when it was petrol-bombed, al­legedly by me­tered-taxi driv­ers, out­side Lof­tus Vers­feld Stat­dium in Pre­to­ria more than a month ago.

Munchick de­scribed the stand­off with the me­tered-taxi own­ers as a “wors­en­ing cri­sis” that needed Po­lice Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula and Trans­port Min­is­ter Joe Maswan­ganyi to in­ter­vene.

Munchick also had a warn­ing for Uber pas­sen­gers, min­utes af­ter a video trended on Twit­ter of two po­lice­men be­ing caught in the mid­dle of yes­ter­day’s vi­o­lent clash be­tween Uber and me­tered­taxi driv­ers out­side the Gau­train sta­tion in Sand­ton.

“If there are a lot of me­tered taxis close by, it is ob­vi­ously not a good idea to re­quest an Uber. There are a few place that are no-go zones. These at­tacks are now a daily oc­cur­rence,” she said.

In re­sponse to the re­cent rise in Uber driver and me­tered-taxi clashes, Uber spokesper­son Sa­man­tha Al­len­berg said: “Any sit­u­a­tion where safety is put at risk is ab­so­lutely un­ac­cept­able to us. That a few me­tered-taxi op­er­a­tors are choos­ing vi­o­lence and threats against those bring­ing choice in trans­porta­tion is un­ac­cept­able.

“Vi­o­lence only un­der­lines why peo­ple are in­creas­ingly choos­ing safe, re­li­able al­ter­na­tives like Uber,” said Al­len­berg.

Munchick, how­ever, be­lieves Uber is not do­ing enough to deal with the volatile sit­u­a­tion that tar­gets mostly driv­ers.

“We don’t re­ally have di­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tion with man­age­ment of Uber, they gen­er­ally re­spond through their spokesper­son. There is a hot­line, but in the past it has not been very ef­fi­cient. We know Uber are con­cerned about the safety and is­sues go­ing on. We know they’re work­ing hard to get mea­sures in place that will be more ef­fec­tive. How­ever, it’s not enough. Very of­ten the se­cu­rity on the ground is not ef­fec­tive,” Munchick added.

Al­len­berg said Uber was do­ing all it could to as­sist in pre­vent­ing the at­tacks and pro­vid­ing as­sis­tance to driver-part­ners and rid­ers.

“We can­not do this alone – au­thor­i­ties and pol­icy mak­ers need to take a stronger stand to help pre­vent and con­demn these ter­ri­ble crimes.”

Al­len­berg said Uber had been in touch with the Mashau fam­ily since the in­ci­dent oc­curred and was as­sist­ing them where pos­si­ble.

“This in­ci­dent is deeply up­set­ting to all of us at Uber. Our thoughts are with his (Mashau’s) fam­ily dur­ing this dif­fi­cult time,” said Al­len­berg.

Gaut­eng Me­ter Taxi Coun­cil spokesper­son Hen­drick Ndou said it was un­fair to lay all the blame on me­tered-taxi driv­ers.

“It’s a clash be­tween the two groups. Our story can’t change. Our con­cern is that these peo­ple can­not use their pri­vate ve­hi­cles as pub­lic trans­port without hav­ing per­mits,” said Ndou.

He claimed the Gaut­eng Me­ter Taxi Coun­cil does not con­done the rise in vi­o­lence.

“Vi­o­lence is some­thing which is not needed. But we find our­selves in a case where we need the govern­ment through law en­force­ment to pro­tect us and our in­dus­try. The law en­forcers are nowhere to be found. It has been proved that these law en­forcers have cars in the Uber plat­form. That’s why now, at the end of the day, we (me­tered taxis) face this ill-treat­ment,” said Ndou.

Yes­ter­day, Uber South Africa re­quested an ur­gent meet­ing with the min­is­ters of po­lice and trans­port to ad­dress the stand-off be­tween its part­ner driv­ers and the me­tered-taxi in­dus­try in Gaut­eng.

Po­lice Min­istry spokesper­son Vuyo Mhaga said Uber rep­re­sen­ta­tives and pro­vin­cial SAPS rep­re­sen­ta­tives had agreed that the po­lice must in­ten­sify ef­forts to make sure they se­cure per­son­nel.

Vi­o­lence un­der­lines why peo­ple choose safer al­ter­na­tives

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