Rival metered taxis are allegedly intimidating drivers and passengers of internet service Uber outside Gautrain stations in Johannesburg.
This is according to a number of passengers who have taken to social media to complain of the intimidation.
Uber passenger Zoe Khumalo told Fin24 that on Sunday she was waiting for her Uber driver outside Sandton City, along Rivonia Road and near the Gautrain station.
When her Uber car arrived, her attempt to get into the vehicle took an ugly turn when an alleged rival metered taxi driver approached her.
“As I’m getting into the (Uber) car, I just opened the door, this guy comes out of nowhere and he just slams the door closed,” Khumalo told Fin24.
“It was horrific; everything happened so fast. Then there was banging on the car.
“They literally chased my Uber away. I was shaken. I was shocked actually that this was happening,” Khumalo said.
Other Uber passengers who heard about the incident on social media, tweeted on Sunday and Monday about being intimidated by rival taxi drivers.
It’s also been reported by Eyewitness News that a gun was involved in one instance of intimidation.
Uber deploying security guards
Meanwhile, the head of Uber for Sub-Saharan Africa, Alon Lits, told Fin24 the situation is “unacceptable” and that his company is aware of the reports of intimidation outside Gautrain stations.
“Obviously it’s something that we take very seriously. It’s very important that our partner drivers are safe,” Lits told Fin24.
“We have been engaging with the taxi metre association to find a way that we can partner,” Lits said.
Lits said it is a few “rogue” metered taxi operators who are intimidating drivers and that Uber is engaging with city officials and the South African Police Service.
Lits said Uber has turned to private security for help.
“We have engaged with private security company to ensure that additional security is deployed to these hotspot locations,” Lits told Fin24.
Intimidation after protest
The instances of intimidation outside Gautrain stations comes days after an illegal protest against Uber was launched in Johannesburg.
A group of metered taxi protesters intended to move from a park in Sandton to the Uber office a few kilometers away in Parktown North on Friday.
The protesters expressed their unhappiness over what they called “unfair competition” from Uber.
But the spokesperson for the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police, Edna Mamonyane, told Fin24 on Friday that the protesters had not received permission from authorities to launch their picketing action on public roads in the city.
Johannesburg is not the only city where Uber drivers are coming under pressure.
In Cape Town, over 200 Uber cars have been impounded by traffic officials this year because the drivers haven’t had the necessary metered taxi permits to operate in that city.
Gautrain condemns incident
Gautrain communications and marketing manager Barbara Jensen told Fin24 that this was “a very unfortunate incident that happened outside Gautrain property”.
“We were not aware of the problem until it happened obviously,” she said.
“The Gautrain has no jurisdiction outside our station buildings and station precinct … (such as the) station building and parkades,” she explained. “Policing outside these parameters is the responsibility of the local authority and SAPS. Even if an incident turns violent in Gautrain property we need to call on SAPS.
“As I understand it, the disagreement between the two entities had been brewing for a while now, but it has nothing to do with Gautrain. The fact that the incident happened in front of the Sandton Station this morning is not linked to the Gautrain.”