Uber and Taxify drivers protest outside the Boksburg magistrate’s court Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha / African News Agency
Pretoria - The battle to get Uber off the city's roads is set to intensify after metered taxi operators vowed to stop at nothing to enforce the law and level the playing field.

The metered taxi operations said on Monday they were tired of government’s failure to implement the law, which allowed the e-hailing cabs to continue operating without the necessary permits. In addition, the operators said they would remove the competition, which they claimed posed an unnecessary and unfair challenge to their trade.

Representatives of Jacaranda City Cabs Concerned Group, made up of metered taxi operators, vowed not to rest for as long as Uber operated illegally on their routes.

“The playing field is not even," spokesman Mosa Thusi said. "We must comply with certain regulations stated in the concurrency letter from the municipality, while they get away without doing that,” .

He said the letter confirmed that operators had a ranking place, which confined them to a certain area.

“Then comes an Uber operator; he does not have the letter which confines him, meaning he can rank anywhere while I am arrested for parking at Bosman Station, for instance. Where is the fairness in that?” he said.

Police reflectors

The group claimed they were being failed by law enforcement officials, some of whom who owned Uber taxis.

“These cars are not even stopped by metro police because they know that chief so-and-so owns them. Many of the cars even have police reflectors and pepper spray with the SAPS logo on them.”

The fight, Thusi said, had nothing to do with the perception that Uber taxis were cleaner and better kept.

“We too have nice, clean and safe cars,” he said. It had to do with the actual operations and pricing.

“In the metered taxi industry, when we look into pricing, we check warranty of the car, fuel consumption and insurance premiums of the car.”

'Not regulated' 

Although Uber and Taxify operated as e-hailing cabs, they were adamant the services operated the same way as metered taxis; they had a charter service permit which did not comply with the metered taxi permit, the group claimed.

Group founder Mmamang Nkadimeng said: “We cannot accept the Uber system of operating as metered taxis because it is not regulated in Section 66 of the National Land Transport Act 2009. We are sticking to the amendment and right now it has not changed or been amended. Until they amend the law it is then that we will accept Uber.”

He said that despite countless meetings held with the Transport Department and Roads and Transport MEC Dr Ismail Vadi, as well handing in memorandums, the issue remained unresolved. He said all they were doing was following the law, but the people they had entrusted to address their issues continued to fail them.

The dispute between the traditional metered cab service providers and the new e-hailing system, including Uber and Taxify, has raged on since Uber came on to the scene in 2013. It had escalated in the past year and often been marred by violence.

Task force

In 2017 Uber operators delivered a memorandum to the department. Along the way they brandished weapons and threatened to burn the new taxi services. Since the war started, vehicles have been damaged, some burnt and keys snatched from the ignition with drivers in them.

As the violence against Uber escalated, people were injured, vehicles burnt and one driver lost his life after being caught in a burning car near Loftus Versfeld. The provincial government said 204 attacks had been recorded in Pretoria - most of them in Hatfield. Johannesburg followed with 86 and Ekurhuleni with four.

A special task force to bring the Uber and metered taxi war situation under control was then established in September by pemier David Makhura.

He also appointed a special cabinet committee tasked with ensuring that the taxi industry was integrated into the broader public transport system. Department of Community Safety spokesperson Busaphi Nxumalo said the task force had not yet taken any action as there had not been any attacks since it was established.

Pretoria News