Uber drivers congregate at Loftus Versfeld for a memorial to Lindelani Mashau, who died after being attacked in June. Picture: Bongani Shilubane
Johannesburg - Competition between the traditional metered taxi industry and ride-hailing app Uber will come under scrutiny when the Competition Commission begins a market inquiry into the public passenger transport sector.

The market inquiry comes after the commission received numerous complaints relating to public transport. The metered-taxi industry has been at loggerheads with Uber drivers since the app was launched in South Africa, with Uber accused of “stealing business” and operating illegally.

On Monday the commission called for submissions into the Public Passenger Transport Market Inquiry which was recently published in a government gazette.

The scope of the inquiry includes price-setting mechanisms, price regulation, transport planning, allocation of subsidies, route allocation, and licensing requirements among other things. The commission said a market inquiry was a general investigation into the state, nature and form of competition in a market, rather than a narrow investigation of specific conduct by any particular firm.

Distorting competition

This inquiry seeks to address concerns that there may be features that prevent, distort or restrict competition in a sector that caters for the transport needs of 70-80 percent of the population.

The commission said it had identified road and rail public passenger transport as relevant for this inquiry, including minibus taxis, localised and metered taxis, app-based taxi services, Metrorail and the Gautrain.

The commission also published a Call for Submissions for stakeholders and the public to provide information that will assist the commission to formulate sound recommendations. The closing date for full submissions is 24 August.

Ministerial meeting requested  

Meanwhile, Uber SA has requested an urgent meeting with the ministers of police and transport to address the war between its partner drivers and the metered-taxi industry, particularly in Gauteng.

This comes after an Uber partner driver, Lindelani Mashau, died on Monday after suffering serious burn wounds. Mashau was in his car when it was set alight, allegedly by metered-taxi drivers, outside Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria more than a month ago.

Uber Africa spokeswoman Samantha Allenberg said it was aware of the intimidation against driver-partners and riders at Gautrain stations. She said Uber had hired private security in a bid to ensure safe and reliable pickups and drop-offs.

“Using violence and intimidation to limit consumer choice is unacceptable to us, to anyone for that matter," Allenberg said. "We have requested an urgent meeting with the police minister and the minister of transport to resolve this situation and we are still waiting for their response,”

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