Taxi war in­ac­tion a dis­grace

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

APRETORIA man died this week. He’d been petrol-bombed. Lin­de­lani Mashau’s crime? He was an Uber driver wait­ing for a fare out­side Lof­tus Vers­feld. Mashau is the first doc­u­mented vic­tim of the steadily in­ten­si­fy­ing war against the 21st cen­tury in­no­va­tion that has to­tally dis­rupted the tra­di­tional me­tered taxi in­dus­try.

In­stead of wel­com­ing this in­no­va­tion, which has breathed new life into a trans­port sec­tor that was ef­fec­tively dead on its feet, its mem­bers have re­acted much like the Lud­dites of old – tex­tile work­ers protest­ing about tech­nol­ogy that they feared would ren­der them re­dun­dant.

His­tory re­minds us what hap­pened to the Lud­dites. The very same will hap­pen to the me­tered taxi driver sec­tor.

The fear is per­fectly un­der­stand­able, some of the complaints too, but noth­ing can ever jus­tify the use of vi­o­lence in or­der to be heard. The anger has been brew­ing for months.

To­day, there are 15 no-go zones in Jo­han­nes­burg alone for Uber driv­ers, chief among them the Gau­train sta­tions, which have long been a place for con­fronta­tion be­tween me­tered taxi driv­ers and Uber driv­ers and – on oc­ca­sion – nor­mal civil­ians wait­ing to pick up rel­a­tives or col­leagues.

But noth­ing has been done. No one has been ar­rested for van­dal­is­ing ve­hi­cles or in­tim­i­dat­ing driv­ers.

The Uber driv­ers are hold­ing their own man­age­ment to ac­count for this, but our con­cern is why there has not been any mean­ing­ful re­sponse worth the name from ei­ther the po­lice ser­vice or the min­is­ter of po­lice.

Every cit­i­zen is en­ti­tled to po­lice pro­tec­tion from the de­struc­tion of their prop­erty or the threat of vi­o­lence. Why haven’t they been pro­tected? In­deed, the tempo and tem­per of the at­tacks have merely in­creased ex­po­nen­tially.

To­day, a fam­ily is pre­par­ing to bury a man who was, lit­er­ally, an ac­ci­dent wait­ing to hap­pen, a sit­ting duck. A man who didn’t de­serve to die, who did noth­ing more than try to earn an hon­est liv­ing.

Lin­de­lani Mashau is dead be­cause the sys­tem failed him. His death must lie not just on the con­sciences of those who threw the petrol bomb at his car, but on those who did noth­ing.

They should be ashamed.

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