File illustration picture showing the logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone next to the picture of an official German taxi sign in Frankfurt, September 15, 2014. A Frankfurt court earlier this month instituted a temporary injunction against Uber from offering car-sharing services across Germany. San Francisco-based Uber, which allows users to summon taxi-like services on their smartphones, offers two main services, Uber, its classic low-cost, limousine pick-up service, and Uberpop, a newer ride-sharing service, which connects private drivers to passengers - an established practice in Germany that nonetheless operates in a legal grey area of rules governing commercial transportation. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/Files (GERMANY - Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT CRIME LAW TRANSPORT)

Cape Town - An Uber taxi driver is in hospital after being attacked in Manenberg by a group of men who then torched his vehicle, leaving residents worried drivers may now stay away from the area.

Safety Forum members in Manenberg believe the attack could be an attempt by local taxi operators to ward off newcomers.

On Saturday morning the Uber driver, who has not yet been named, was allegedly attacked by assailants and his car set alight in Manenberg after he had just dropped off three men. It is understood the men then attacked the driver but this has not been confirmed.

The Uber driver was taken to the police station and then to a hospital where he is reportedly in a stable condition and recovering, said Manenberg Safety Forum chairwoman, Roegshanda Pascoe.

Uber confirmed that the incident took place and said the organisation is relieved to hear his condition is “currently stable”.

“At this stage, it is not clear what caused this incident but we will support authorities in their investigation however we can,” the taxi company told the Cape Argus in e-mail correspondence this morning.

However, police spokeswoman, Noloyiso Rwexana said that the incident had not been reported to the Manenberg police station.

Pascoe said witnesses relayed that the taxi driver brought home three people when he was assaulted in Turfhall Road, a known robbery hot spot, at the weekend. “I am not sure, but we suspect that it’s a retaliation of taxi operators against Uber. We are investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident. We do suspect it could be a retaliation of taxi drivers who ambushed the driver as a warning to other meter taxis taking over their territory,” she said.

She said she found the details of the incident to be “highly suspicious”. “If it was a robbery, why would the attackers torch the car? At this stage, it is not yet clear whether the men the driver dropped were the individuals who attacked him or if he was targeted from outside his vehicle. What we do know is that after the car was set alight, the driver was taken to the police station and then to the hospital for a check-up,” said Pascoe.

Pascoe said it was disappointing that the driver was attacked in the community as this would strike fear into the operators of other forms of transportation residents relied on to get to work.

“Those of us who rely on transport are going to suffer if Uber taxi drivers refuse to come into the area. How are we going to get to work without paying an arm and a leg. Uber is cheaper to be transported in. Many of us are single working mothers and this just adds unnecessary stress. This denies us the right to move freely,” said Pascoe.

Last month, meter taxi drivers forced passengers out of Uber cars on the road to Cape Town International Airport.

Conflict also reached boiling point in Joburg where chairwoman of Parliament’s Transport Portfolio Committee, Dikeledi Magadzi, called for an end to conflict between Uber partner-drivers and metered taxi owners, before lives were lost.

In May, three metro police officials in Joburg were injured after metered taxi drivers stoned two Uber cars and two metro police vehicles outside of the Sandton Gautrain station.

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Cape Argus