13 September 2017

South Africa: Two Taxify Taxis Set Alight in Pretoria

Two Taxify vehicles were set alight in Sunnyside, Pretoria, on Wednesday afternoon during ongoing taxi violence in the province, Gauteng police said.

The first vehicle was set alight when a driver was called to pick up a passenger, police spokesperson Daniel Mavimbela said in a statement.

While waiting inside his vehicle, he was approached by a group of around eight men who threatened him with violence.

A "flammable substance" was used to set the vehicle alight and it burnt out completely. The driver escaped unharmed.

Mavimbela could not say what the flammable substance was.

The second vehicle was set alight later the afternoon, Mavimbela told News24.

The vehicle was parked outside of a building when seven men approached the driver. The vehicle was also set alight with a flammable substance and partially damaged, he said.

The driver sustained no injuries.

Battle for territory

Mavimbela said police were investigating two cases of malicious damage to property. A case of assault has been opened by the first taxi driver.

Taxify could not be reached for comment.

Several Uber and Taxify vehicles have been set alight in Gauteng in the past four months in what is believed to be a battle for territory.

South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) spokesperson Thabisho Molelekwa previously said the violence was sparked by "unequal competition" from Uber.

"The government issues permits to Uber drivers while they are operating on the same routes we are operating on. Government can't issue permits for existing routes," Molelekwa said.

"Uber used to say it doesn't matter because they are an app, but that excuse doesn't work anymore."

On Monday, meter taxi drivers told News24 that they were willing to lay down their lives to prevent Uber drivers from invading "their territory".

"There is nothing we can do but to protect our territory, whether by blood or iron. We will have to die because we are already dead," meter taxi owner Oupa Skhosane said.

Call for government to act

Skhosane said violence against meter taxis was never reported on. He said a meter taxi was burnt in front of police on Friday evening, but nothing was done.

"There is an extra 7 000 Uber cars in Johannesburg. It is flooding the area and that is the main cause of the violence. We can't allow people from America to come and take over here," he said.

Meanwhile, Uber South Africa launched a petition calling on Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi and Police Minister Fikile Mbalula to take action following the recent spate of attacks against Uber driver-partners.

Alon Lits, general manager for Uber sub-Saharan Africa, said the company was extremely disappointed that the violence against Uber driver-partners continued unabated and that policymakers were blaming the violent behaviour on a "turf war".

On Wednesday evening, the petition had 43 000 signatures on Change.org.

"We are not law enforcement, and government and police need to step in and take a stronger stand to end this violence and intimidation against those bringing progress and choice in the industry," Lits said in a statement.

Source: News24

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