Johannesburg - 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 on Monday 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 on Monday 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 Monday’s violent clash between Uber and metered-taxi 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.
On Monday, 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.