We’ll burn Uber down, say metered taxi drivers
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Cape Town - The 15 metered taxi operators charged with public disorder after police fired several stun grenades and stormed an illegal gathering on Thursday were released on a warning after appearing in court, and will be back in court again on Tuesday.
Violence broke out when taxi operators protested against the presence of the taxi service Uber in Cape Town. Uber, widely perceived as one of the safest options available, has come under fierce attack from metered taxi operators, who said they would
“burn Uber down” because the service was making it impossible for them to make a decent living.
Responding to the threats, Uber said on Friday it was “working with all relevant stakeholders to resolve this as a matter of urgency”. Uber was “deeply committed to the safety of riders and drivers”.
At issue is Uber’s tariff structure. The cheaper Uber rates have enraged many established industry players who allege Uber is receiving special treatment.
Many of these grievances were discussed at a meeting of metered taxi operators on Thursday, where they took a decision to “cause maximum k*k in the city” and to attack Uber vehicles and their operators.
The meeting in a parking lot in District Six was attended by more than 100 operators. The meeting resolved that metered taxi operators would prevent Uber vehicles from loading passengers, taking away the keys of any drivers operating under the Uber banner.
“Uber is like a snake and we must cut off the head of the snake. Violence is the only way to solve the problem and this was the solution in London and in Paris where they burnt Uber cars and it worked,” a metered taxi driver said.
Earlier, the group had heard from David Drummond, spokesperson for the metered taxi industry interim committee, who said they had met provincial transport and public works MEC Donald Grant four weeks ago to discuss their concerns.
“At that meeting Donald Grant listened and we thought he was sincere and he said we would get a reply in two weeks. But it has now been four weeks and we have not heard from him,” Drummond said.
He said the metered taxi industry had approached the public protector to investigate collusion between Uber and government officials.
On Thursday the operators also blocked the entrance to Grant’s offices, demanding he come out and address them.
One of the frightened Uber drivers who jumped out of his vehicle in the chaos on Thursday said he was very concerned at what was happening.
“This is now dangerous for everybody, even for passengers,” he said.
Derick Onganisie, an Uber partner since 2013, said they had warned “this kind of thing would happen if the government does not urgently step in to address all the issues with all the relevant players”.
“Now you see it clearly, that we who are on the front line are getting attacked in what could well become an all-out war,” he said, adding part of the problem was there was no clear and definitive policy regulating tariffs, routes, permits and penalties for Uber.
Uber has maintained its activities are above board and it has fully engaged the relevant authorities.
“Policymakers have embraced our technology and provided much needed clarity on how driver-partners should be licensed, which has been very useful,” said Uber spokeswoman Samantha Allenberg.