Johannesburg - The Meter Taxi Association has distanced itself from a viral and threatening message circulating on social media, but conceded to having threatened Uber drivers and preventing passengers from being picked up.

Violence flared up in Sandton over the past three days during which Uber operators and passengers were attacked, especially around Gautrain stations.

The message on Monday encouraged meter taxi drivers to use violence against Uber drivers and their passengers.

It read: “We have tolerated this blood sucking animal, called Uber, for a while now, it’s time we put this to an end.

“On a number of occasions meter taxis have been impounded or issued ridiculous fines just for an expired permit or lack of it, and other silly and minor offences, but Uber has been tolerated and permitted to operate without permits.”

Police increased their presence around the Sandton Gautrain station after many incidents of meter taxi drivers attacking operators picking up commuters were reported over the weekend.

Police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubele said that despite police being alerted to sporadic incidents, none were reported. He said police were monitoring the situation.

Meter Taxi Association spokesperson Abner Mashi-kinya questioned the origin of the message, saying they would not threaten Uber drivers publicly. He said it was an attempt to bring them into disrepute.

Mashikinya accused Uber drivers of antagonising them by operating on their territory.

“It would be stupid of us to threaten them in public like that. We tried to find out where it came from but do not know the origin,” he said.

Mashikinya, however, admitted that Uber drivers were threatened.

“That’s true. We are preventing them from taking Uber. The thing is that we are not fighting with the drivers, we are fighting with the app.”

He alleged that meter taxi rates per kilometre were regulated by the government, which capped them at R15.50 a kilometre.

“Uber tariffs per kilometre are higher. They are R20 per kilometre and that’s why we are fighting against them; they are aiming to finish us,” Mashikinya said.

Uber was launched in August 2013 in Joburg, making it the first African city to use the app.

The meter taxi industry failed in its attempt to have the Competition Commission declare that Uber was engaging in predatory pricing and anti-competitive behaviour.

Last year, the competition authority dismissed the claims by the local meter taxi industry on the basis that Uber’s business was not in contravention of the Competition Act.

Since its thrust into South Africa, Uber has grown support from commuters because of its value proposition of low fare prices, safety and convenience.

The Star

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