Uber ‘killing’ taxi businesses, says taxi protesters

Picture: Dado Ruvic, Facebook

Picture: Dado Ruvic, Facebook

Published Apr 29, 2016


Durban - Metered taxi drivers took to the streets on Thursday at what they believe is unfair competition and the lack of regulation of taxi hailing app, Uber.

The Uber app, which allows users to hail a cab to their exact location using a smartphone, has drawn outrage - and similar protests - from traditional taxi cabs worldwide.

Peter Lehman, general manager of Mozzie Cabs, said they had to comply with legislation and regulations and believed Uber did not.

He said legal metered taxis were regularly checked, but authorities could not check Uber cabs because they had no way of knowing these cars were cabs.

“Uber operates completely under the radar. They do not have marked cars. They are not metered. These laws are to protect the public. In an Uber, are you protected, are you safe?

“To renew their permits, companies like Mozzie and others transporting people for gain, had to have a permit and in order to get and renew it, they needed to satisfy certain requirements,” Lehman said.

“This has gone on for too long. We have had many discussions with authorities, but very little has been done to enforce the laws we have to adhere to, on Uber,” Lehman said.

Because of the international financial backing, Uber had the capacity to lower their prices to “unfair” levels.

Sizwe Mvubu, KZN Metered Taxi Alliance chairperson, said this was a bread-and-butter issue with drivers earning less commission and companies struggling to keep afloat because of “unfair competition”.

“We have many costs because we follow the law and our prices are guided by municipal by-laws. Their (Uber) prices are almost half of what we charge, they are killing us on the market,” Mvubu said.

Part of the grievances was why the South African government had allowed Uber to operate in the country when there was a regulated metered taxi industry employing many people.

Having been a driver himself before establishing his own company, Durban Metered Taxis, Mvubu knows the impact slow business can have on one’s livelihood.

“Uber is like a cancer, and if the government thinks we are too small to talk to, we will take a march national, with the help of Santaco (South African National Taxi Council) because it’s only a matter of time before Uber takes over minibus business as well,” Mvubu said.

Nathi Sukazi, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport spokesperson, said they were aware of the issues raised by the metered taxi alliance.

He said this was not only a provincial and national issue, but an international one.

Sukazi said the Department of Transport at the national level was considering amending the Transport Act to incorporate services like Uber.

At the provincial level, Sukazi said the MEC for transport, Willies Mchunu, would be engaging with the metered taxi associations.

In Johannesburg, metered taxi drivers have taken a more aggressive approach towards Uber.

The Daily News’s sister paper, The Star, last year reported that a woman and an Uber driver were allegedly attacked at the Sandton Gautrain station.

Uber was launched in the country in 2013, and the Gauteng Provincial Metered Taxi Council then entered into negotiations to try to resolve the impasse in the same year.

However, last month The Star reported that metered taxi drivers held a protest calling for the shutting down of Uber.

In a statement to the Daily News, Uber said: “Uber’s technology is open and pro-choice and we are keen to offer it to a broad number of taxi drivers to boost their occupancy rates and chances for profit.

“In fact, many metered taxi drivers are already using our technology to boost their incomes and we would welcome more who wish to join their colleagues. We do not feel that it should be about Uber or Taxi but rather Uber AND Taxi.

“Uber is all about keeping Durban moving - connecting people to safe, reliable transport at the touch of a button. We’re proud to bring more choice to Durban - for riders and our driver-partners alike.”

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Daily News

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