Uber wars rage on

Court gives me­tered taxi drivers slap on wrist Court told of fear, loathing at SABC

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - ZENZILE KHOISAN CRAIG DODDS

THE 15 me­tered taxi op­er­a­tors charged with pub­lic dis­or­der af­ter po­lice fired sev­eral stun grenades and stormed an il­le­gal gath­er­ing on Thurs­day were re­leased on a warn­ing af­ter ap­pear­ing in court, and will be back in court again on Tues­day.

Vi­o­lence broke out when taxi op­er­a­tors protested against the pres­ence of the taxi ser­vice Uber in the the city. Uber, widely per­ceived as one of the safest op­tions avail­able, has come un­der fierce at­tack from me­tered taxi op­er­a­tors, who said they would “burn Uber down” be­cause the ser­vice was mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble for them to make a de­cent liv­ing.

Re­spond­ing to the threats, Uber said yes­ter­day it was “work­ing with all rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers to re­solve this as a mat­ter of ur­gency”. Uber was “deeply com­mit­ted to the safety of rid­ers and drivers”.

At is­sue is Uber’s tar­iff struc­ture. The cheaper Uber rates have en­raged many es­tab­lished in­dus­try play­ers who al­lege Uber is re­ceiv­ing spe­cial treat­ment.

Many of these griev­ances were dis­cussed at a meet­ing of me­tered taxi op­er­a­tors on Thurs­day, where they took a de­ci­sion to “cause max­i­mum k*k in the city” and to at­tack Uber ve­hi­cles and their op­er­a­tors.

The meet­ing in a park­ing lot in District Six was at­tended by more than 100 op­er­a­tors. The meet­ing re­solved that me­tered taxi op­er­a­tors would pre­vent Uber ve­hi­cles from load­ing pas­sen­gers, tak­ing away the keys of any drivers op­er­at­ing un­der the Uber ban­ner.

“Uber is like a snake and we must cut off the head of the snake. Vi­o­lence is the only way to solve the prob­lem and this was the so­lu­tion in London and in Paris where they burnt Uber cars and it worked,” a me­tered taxi driver said.

Ear­lier, the group had heard from David Drummond, spokesman for the me­tered taxi in­dus­try in­terim com­mit­tee, who said they had met provin­cial trans­port and pub­lic works MEC Don­ald Grant four weeks ago to dis­cuss their con­cerns.

“At that meet­ing Don­ald Grant lis­tened and we thought he was sin­cere and he said we would get a re­ply in two weeks. But it has now been four weeks and we have not heard from him,” Drummond said.

He said the me­tered taxi in­dus­try had ap­proached the pub­lic pro­tec­tor to in­ves­ti­gate col­lu­sion be­tween Uber and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

On Thurs­day the op­er­a­tors also blocked the en­trance to Grant’s of­fices, de­mand­ing he come out and ad­dress them.

One of the fright­ened Uber drivers who jumped out of his ve­hi­cle in the chaos on Thurs­day said he was very con­cerned at what was hap­pen­ing.

“This is now dan­ger­ous for ev­ery­body, even for pas­sen­gers,” he said.

Der­ick On­gan­isie, an Uber part­ner since 2013, said they had warned “this kind of thing would hap­pen if the gov­ern­ment does not ur­gently step in to ad­dress all the is­sues with all the rel­e­vant play­ers”.

“Now you see it clearly, that we who are on the front line are get­ting at­tacked in what could well be­come an all-out war,” he said, adding part of the prob­lem was there was no clear and de­fin­i­tive pol­icy reg­u­lat­ing tar­iffs, routes, per­mits and penal­ties for Uber.

Uber has main­tained its ac­tiv­i­ties are above board and it has fully en­gaged the rel­e­vant author­i­ties.

“Pol­i­cy­mak­ers have em­braced our tech­nol­ogy and pro­vided much needed clar­ity on how driver- part­ners should be li­censed, which has been very use­ful,” said Uber spokes­woman Sa­man­tha Al­len­berg.

zenzile.khoisan@inl.co.za TIDES High to­day . . .12.43am, 1.25pm To­mor­row . . . . .1.27am, 2.03pm Low to­day . . . . .7.11am, 7.22pm To­mor­row . . . . .7.50am, 8.02pm Spring tides . . . . . . . . . . .July 20

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Aug 2 Neap Tides . . . . . . . . . . .July 27

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Aug 10 SUN/MOON Sun­rise to­day . . . . . . . . . .7.49am Sun­set to­day . . . . . . . . .5.55pm Moon rises to­day . . . . . .3.13pm Moon sets to­mor­row . . . .4.25am THE SABC ban on footage of vi­o­lent protests and crack­down on jour­nal­ists who ques­tioned it has re­sulted in a “cul­ture of fear and si­lence” in the news­room, which ef­fec­tively pre­vents the pub­lic broad­caster from re­port­ing ac­cu­rately on the sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try.

That’s the ar­gu­ment pre­sented in court pa­pers to the Con­sti­tu­tional Court by eight jour­nal­ists fac­ing dis­missal, who say pol­icy is so vague and in­ter­pre­ta­tions of it by man­age­ment so con­tra­dic­tory that jour­nal­ists and ed­i­tors are no longer sure what they can cover.

This re­sulted in a “far­ci­cal” sit­u­a­tion where jour­nal­ists feared los­ing their jobs sim­ply for do­ing their jobs.

The pol­icy had also been used to pre­vent cov­er­age, not only of protests in­volv­ing vi­o­lence or destruction of pub­lic prop­erty, but also peace­ful protests and even crit­i­cism of the pol­icy it­self, the eight say.

“It is quite clear from the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the protest pol­icy, the jour­nal­ists’ re­sponse and crit­i­cism thereto and the dis­ci­plinary ac­tions taken against the jour­nal­ists that the SABC is cur­rently en­gag­ing in a full-scale op­er­a­tion to cap­ture and con­trol the pre­dom­i­nant source of cur­rent af­fairs and news in­for­ma­tion in South Africa,” SABC eco­nom­ics ed­i­tor Than­deka Gqubule wrote in an af­fi­davit on be­half of the eight, three of whom were sus­pended and the oth­ers slapped with dis­ci­plinary charges af­ter ques­tion­ing the pol­icy.

The af­fi­davit forms part of an ur­gent ap­pli­ca­tion lodged in the Con­sti­tu­tional Court yes­ter­day seek­ing di­rect ac­cess to the court and for the pol­icy, sus­pen­sion of and dis­ci­plinary ac­tion against the jour­nal­ists to be set aside.

The SABC also faces a Tues­day dead­line to re­spond to an In­de­pen­dent Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Author­ity of South Africa rul­ing that the pol­icy must be re­versed, as well as a High Court ap­pli­ca­tion by the He­len Suz­man Foun­da­tion for the pol­icy to be re­viewed and set aside.

The pol­icy has been widely con­demned as cen­sor­ship but a de­fi­ant SABC chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng has vowed to fight at­tempts to re­verse it all the way to the Con­sti­tu­tional Court.

This, Gqubule ar­gues, shows it would take years to reach fi­nal­ity in the mat­ter and for the pub­lic and jour­nal­ists to get re­lief should the court not grant di­rect ac­cess, which it usu­ally does only in ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances in a mat­ter in­volv­ing a con­sti­tu­tional prin­ci­ple.

The SABC has been given un­til Mon­day to give no­tice if it in­tends to op­pose the ap­pli­ca­tion.

craig.dodds@inl.co.za

‘The broad­caster

is en­gaged in a full-scale op­er­a­tion to cap­ture... the source of

cur­rent af­fairs’

PIC­TURE: MICHAEL WALKER

Uber head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions Joseph Mun­zvenga tells a po­lice of­fi­cer drivers’ con­cerns at Uber of­fices at The Foundry in Green Point.

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