Uber taxis torched, 30 arrested during Joburg #taxiprotest
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Johannesburg - The conflict between metered taxi drivers and Uber operators continues despite intervention by the Transport Ministry last month.
On Friday, two Uber vehicles were set alight during protests on the R21 and R24 highways.
At least 30 metered taxi drivers were arrested after disrupting traffic during their demonstration near OR Tambo International Airport.
They claimed that cab hailing service Uber was operating illegally and that their concerns continued to be ignored.
Police spokesperson Lungelo Dlamini said protesting metered taxi drivers who abandoned their cars to lie on the highway were part of the arrested group.
He said the police hoped this would send a strong message to metered taxi drivers not to obstruct traffic.
An investigation was under way to determine how the two Uber vehicles were torched during the protest.
Samantha Allenberg, spokesperson for the cab-hailing app, said they too were investigating the incident.
The burnt-out remains of two taxis are seen behind a police cordon after clashes broke out between metered taxi drivers and Uber taxi drivers in Sandton City, Joburg, last month.
“We’re aware of the situation on the R24. At this time we can confirm that one vehicle was registered to use the Uber app. We are busy investigating the second vehicle,” said Allenberg.
“On being notified of this incident our operations, security and law enforcement teams immediately reached out to the relevant authorities.”
Violence between metered taxi drivers and Uber drivers has escalated in recent months.
Allenberg has labelled the actions of metered taxi drivers as “unacceptable”.
“Any situation where driver and rider safety is put at risk is absolutely unacceptable to us.
"That people are choosing violence and threats against those bringing choice in transportation, and against those who choose to move around their city, is completely unacceptable.”
Not only are Uber drivers being put at risk, but also their passengers. A number of passengers have been attacked in the past few months. The most recent incident occurred last week.
According to Afrikaans rapper Jack Parow, a friend of his was waiting for an Uber in Melville when he was attacked and stabbed three times in the face, reportedly by a taxi driver.
Allenberg, however, said there was no evidence to suggest that this specific incident was linked to a metered taxi driver.
She nonetheless said the cab-hailing app service was doing all it could to ensure the safety of its passengers and drivers.
“We have a dedicated team working 24/7 in South Africa and around the world to support our commitment to safety.
"Our technology makes it possible to focus on safety for riders and drivers before, during and after every trip in ways that simply were not possible before smartphones.”
Meanwhile, the DA spokesperson for Roads and Transport, Fred Nel, has lashed out at Gauteng Premier David Makhura for not taking any action following the ongoing violence between metered taxi drivers and Uber operators.
In a statement released yesterday, Nel accused Makhura of doing “sweet nothing” to stem the violence.
“Premier Makhura must instruct Gauteng Roads and Transport MEC Ismail Vadi to establish a task team with the Department of Community Safety to arrest those involved in what has become a criminal syndicate and revoke the operating licences of complicit taxi drivers,” said Nel.
"These attacks not only place the lives of Uber drivers at risk, but also endanger commuters exercising their rights as consumers to make use of their preferred choice of transport.”
Nel believed the issue had reached a crisis point.