More than 50 Uber and Taxify drivers gathered at the KwaMashu police station on Tuesday. The drivers complained about intimidation by a group of men from a local taxi association and the lack of action from police. One of the vehicles, a Toyota Etios, was allegedly shot at by a group of men at Bridge City Shopping Centre. Picture: Nqobile Mbonambi/African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - The drivers of vehicles like VW Polos and Toyota Etioses - popular among Uber and Taxify drivers - are increasingly at risk as minibus taxi operators take aim at the ride-hailing services.

The cars of Uber and Taxify drivers have come under fire in Durban suburbs in recent weeks - one had nine bullet holes in the aftermath - and innocent Polo and Etios drivers have also been targeted when they were suspected of affiliation to the ride-hailing services.

In response, Uber and Taxify drivers protested outside the KwaMashu police station this week, complaining they were being harassed and targeted by KwaMashu Taxi Association members who were impounding their cars and demanding R5000 for their release.

The drivers said the police would not open cases. Masoyi Fuze, an Uber driver for two years, said they were living in fear of the armed men.

Fuze said he had been attacked three times and other drivers had reported that their passengers had been intimidated.

Drivers complained that the men were stopping ordinary people driving sedans like the Etios and Polo, and accusing them of working for the ride-hailing companies. The police apparently said this was a civil matter and would not open cases.

Fuze said he lost his job a few years ago and used his money to buy a car. “The money that I make from this I use to provide for my family,” he said.

Fuze said the irony of the situation was that some taxi owners used Uber services and that some also operated their own Uber cars.

If nothing was done to address the situation, they vowed to hold a large protest that would shut the city down.

Sifiso Shangase of the SA National Taxi Association said they had not heard of the intimidation of Uber and Taxify drivers.

Shangase said they had problems with the way Uber and Taxify drivers operated as they were unregulated and did not have operating licences like metered taxis and minibus taxi operators.

“The Uber and Taxify apps are great for the customers, but for us it creates an uneven playing field,” he said,

Shangase said the association in KZN was in the middle of negotiations with Uber to find a solution to the matter, including how they could become stakeholders in operations in the province.

On social media there were numerous complaints about Uber drivers being attacked and bullied, with the latest incident happening on Monday in Newlands East, where a driver was stopped and intimidated by a minibus taxi driver.

The attacks have sparked an outcry over the infringement of people’s rights to use whatever mode of transport they chose.

The Daily News has previously reported on tensions between metered taxi drivers, Uber and Taxify, and the minibus taxi industry.

The tensions have resulted in conflicts leading to people being assaulted and killed.

The Transport Department is in the process of formulating a law to regulate ride-hailing services.

Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said a man in his 40s had been arrested for kidnapping in connection with the intimidation.

The KwaMashu Taxi Association did not comment by the time of going to press.

Uber said the violence and intimidation underlined why people were increasingly choosing alternatives like Uber.

“The threats and intimidation against people who want to use the Uber app to boost their incomes is unacceptable and must be condemned.”

Taxify condemned “any violence, intimidation or extortion directed towards ride-hailing drivers, because we believe that every South African has the right to earn a living without risk of harm, intimidation or coercion”.

Daily News