File picture: Independent Media.
Johannesburg - Uber has responded to attacks on its drivers and their customers by launching a cellphone application for use in emergency situations.

In the meantime, metered taxi operators have - unlike Uber - not yet come up with ways to protect themselves and their customers from the ongoing violence in the industry.

Uber’s Incident Response Team call-back line provides passengers with 24/7 access to Uber’s global response service should they encounter any safety related issues.

According to Uber spokesperson Monique Thompson, the call-back line had been in test since last December. “Commuters can access the network through the Uber application they already have. With the call-back line feature, they can submit a ticket for a critical safety incident or accident through the app. On the report they will include their contact number and short description of the event.

“The rider will then receive a call-back within a couple minutes from the Incident Response Team.”

General manager for Uber Sub-Saharan Africa, Alon Lits, said: “We have listened to the hundreds of thousands of riders using the Uber app in South Africa. They have expressed the need to be able to speak with our teams in the event of a critical safety-related issue. We strongly encourage riders to always first use the national emergency line (10111). With the introduction of the call-back line, we are able to help riders speak with our dedicated personnel within minutes.”

The charred remains of Taxify driver Siyabonga Ngcobo were found in the boot of this car at the beginning of March. Picture: Twitter.

Thompson said the new app feature was in addition to the private security response teams in areas such as Gautrain stations and another team of former law enforcement professionals who work closely with the police to support any investigation.

Thompson said they had also partnered with multiple security response services that dispatched security and medical services in emergency situations in an effort to improve the safety of driver-partners who use the Uber app.

Speaking to the Pretoria News on Tuesday, secretary at the Gauteng Metered Taxi Council, Hendrick Ndou, said they were yet to meet the Transport Department to discuss ways of protecting themselves and how to end the war in the sector.

“This war is not good for anyone, more especially our customers” he said.

Ndou said he was a victim of the attacks during which his car was smashed with bricks last week after the memorial service of the Taxify driver Siyabonga Ngcobo.

Pretoria News