More than 200 taxi operators caused severe traffic disruptions in the city on Thursday as they marched to the department’s offices in Struben Street, where they warned the department to remove the “cheap” taxi service from the capital’s streets, vowing to resort to extreme measures should this not be done.
Drivers belonging to the Tshwane Concerned Meter Taxi Operators said they were upset. They had approached the minister several times with the same problem but had received no joy, they said.
In February the metered taxi drivers marched to the department to hand over a memorandum of demands, among them that Uber and other e-hailing taxis be removed from Gauteng roads because they brought unfair competition. The taxi operators claimed some Uber vehicles were owned by the government and law enforcement officials, which was why their pleas fell on deaf ears.
They met to discuss the way forward, meeting in an open space near the Marabastad bus terminal, and resolved to march to the department; hundreds marched under the watchful eye of law enforcement officers.
“If you fail to stop them we’re going to stop them ourselves,” they shouted, after handing the memorandum over to departmental officials.
For many months, metered taxi operators have raged against Uber, saying it was pushing them out of business. Tshwane Concerned Meter Taxi Operators spokesman Oupa Skosana said the Uber taxi service was illegal.
“If you want to operate, you must register with the department of transport and fulfill all the requirements, he said. “Uber doesn’t do all those things. It just operates a parallel structure at a fraction of what we are charging.”
A taxi operator said their patience with Peters was wearing very thin, and threatened that if the department did not respond to their plea to do away with Uber, blood would be shed.
“If the department does not want to hear our cry then they should feel it," he said. “They are pushing us to do violent acts. I don’t think Peters understands the urgency of this matter - this is our bread and butter.”
The online ride-hailing service has taken off in South Africa since its launch in 2013, attracting more than 500 000 users and 4000 drivers across South Africa, but its popularity sparked tension in the cab industry.
Uber operators have been unwelcome in taxi ranks and areas such as the Gautrain stations, where they mainly operate. Incidents of violence against and by them have been reported, including hijackings, kidnappings and the alleged rape of passengers by Uber drivers.
The charges against Uber drivers have been labelled as a smear campaigns aimed at discrediting the service and making the operation unpopular.