Durban - UBER and Bolt drivers are up in arms against the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) in Durban after reports of intimidation and demands for money from members of the association.
Members of the South African e-Hailers Association (SAEHA) reportedly blocked roads coming in and out of Mega City in uMlazi on Friday after allegedly receiving threats and allegedly being intimidated by taxi operators.
The association also reported that members had had their vehicles impounded.
On the same day, Uber drivers are also said to have conducted a peaceful convoy to Durban North police station where they delivered their complaints.
The police are said to have given drivers an emergency number to call when these incidents occurred, however the drivers were still unhappy with this approach.
One of the drivers, who did not want to be named, said: “We were given a number by the police to report harassment, but that is something we usually do and the police do not help us. We are worried about our safety.”
“We are not striking,” said another driver anonymously. “We are just trying to get together as drivers to figure out what we can do about the situation and stop the harassment. We already barely even make R8 000 a month because of Covid. Where are we supposed to get R3 000 or R6 000 to pay Santaco?”
Musa Ndlovu of the Qina Mshayeli Taxi Association said: “It is not Santaco members who are harassing the Uber and Bolt drivers. Santaco has denied these allegations because we have long ago established that these acts are being done by opportunistic criminals.”
Santaco provincial spokesperson Sfiso Shangase said: “The association is unaware at the provincial level of the pronouncement of the thousands of rands e-hailers are being asked to pay, but the regions have independence and sovereignty to make certain decisions to allow the smooth running of operations. There are still discussions under way to ensure that e-hailing drivers are protected in areas where there is too much influx of both e-hailers and taxi drivers.”
Shangase added that the other point of dispute was that Uber drivers were not required to have permits and could drive anywhere, while minibus taxi drivers had designated routes.
Responding to the allegations, Uber spokesperson Amy Fuller said: “Taxi operators cannot monopolise Uber routes as Uber does not have dedicated specific routes anywhere in the country. A majority of drivers-partners using the Uber app have already completed the requisite steps in applying for their operating licences, under the current National Land Transport Bill, however the process of issuing operating licences has been delayed as there is a backlog with the relevant departments, and due to the pandemic, this has further delayed things. The frustration with bottlenecks is felt by everyone in the industry, not just with drivers using the Uber app.”
The provinical Department of Transport said the incidents were regrettable and should be handled and resolved peacefully.
“There is no one who should take the law into their own hands, including illegally collecting monies from other transport operators. The matter is serious and we will be engaging with Santaco on the behaviour of its members. We also encourage them to report the matter to the police. As the government we are deeply engaged in building a public transport system that is safe, competitive and regulated,” said spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane.
SAEHA said a grievance had been lodged with Uber, who had partnered with a private security company should their drivers have their vehicles impounded or be intimidated.
Uber also indicated that it had reached out to the eThekwini Municipality about a meeting it have planned with Santaco and operators, however there had not yet been a response.