Almost 100 Taxify and Uber drivers took to the streets, hooting and waving SA flags on Somerset Road, Green Point in protest of vehicle impoundments and other grievences. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - Hundreds of Uber and Taxify drivers blocked Somerset Street in Green Point with their vehicles and honked their hooters to raise awareness of what they termed “unethical driver abuse” from Uber, Taxify and the City. The protest, which caused congestion, was intercepted by Traffic and Law Enforcement officials who dispersed the protesters, resulting in a scuffle that saw four Uber drivers arrested for assault and gathering illegally on Tuesday.

Uber drivers who took part in the protest said they wanted to alert the public to the conditions under which drivers were working, which included not getting an increase despite a rising petrol price and constantly having their vehicles impounded due to the City not issuing them with permits to operate.

“We hold the government accountable for bringing Uber here and enslaving us,"  said Derick Ongansie."This is a campaign to make the public aware of Uber’s shenanigans and collusion with the people who are beneficiaries of our slavery. We are not making money. Depreciation is instant on this platform.”

Uber driver Nicholas Morris agreed with Ongansie and said permits were not being issued by the City - his permit application had been pending for almost three years. Morris said the City refused to issue the permit because they wanted to make money by impounding vehicles.

“Each week 50 vehicles are impounded; they’re making a lot of money off us," Morris said. "We’re also having problems with Uber, the petrol price is up; it’s R15.20 a litre and we’re still operating on R7 a kilometre. Whenever Uber makes a decision, they make it without consulting us.”

Taxify and Uber drivers hoot and wave South African flags on Loop Street. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

However, according to Uber driver Riaz Mongratie, who represents about 1000 Uber drivers not participating in the strike, not all drivers endorse the protest.

“Uber’s doors have not been closed to us," he said. "Uber launched a review asking everyone about their expenses, to adjust fees accordingly. The Uber system is growing and the City stopped issuing permits.”

Picture Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)

General manager for Uber Sub-Saharan Africa Alon Lits said Uber had a zero tolerance policy regarding violence and the matter would be investigated. Lits confirmed that the process of obtaining permits for drivers had been delayed due to a backlog at the City departments.

Mayoral committee member for Transport and Urban Development Brett Herron said the City had been doing its part assisting Uber drivers with licensing applications, but some operators failed to finalise the licensing process with the Western Cape Provincial Regulatory entity.

Taxify spokesperson Gareth Taylor, said Taxify had responded to the drivers’ concern about payment by adjusting the rates it charged riders.

Cape Argus