I travel from Pretoria to Joburg most weekdays to attend Wits University, and I mostly travel on the Gautrain.
In the past, I would normally walk as fast as I could to the Wits campus from Parktown Station. But I now Uber to the university with a friend, who does not like the dangers of the area.
After using Uber a few times, it is easy to spot an Uber, especially around Parktown. They are typically the newest and most well-kept cars, and many make their stop at the Gautrain Parktown station to pick up their passengers.
Of late, though, that seems to be changing. There is conflict. Yesterday morning and afternoon offered clear examples. As we tried to climb into our Uber, we were stopped. A man in a reflective jacket with “taxi [something]” written on it came over to our driver and, in a strong voice, said something like: “You know you may not be here! Go!”
In my confusion, I had no clue what was going on. The driver in the car gave a defeated shrug and went on his way without us. To my dismay, I saw more people like this at the front of the station. They seemed to be occupying the section close to where the buses park – many drivers drop their passengers off there, as do the Uber drivers.
But a large section of that area has now been “taken over” by the non-Uber taxis of the area, with great hostility. So yesterday I was back to walking. On my way I exited the drop-off zone adjacent to the car garage and saw a group of five to six more anti-Uber thugs standing at this exit just across the road.
To say they were out of place is an understatement – no one normally ever stands on that corner. The same gang of people were still at their “post” when we made our way back a couple of hours later.
My friend and I took an Uber back to Park Station and had a discussion with the driver. He told us this intimidation had been going on for some time and had become quite violent. The taxi drivers now apparently treat this section of Joburg as part of their “turf”.
The driver told us that a fellow Uber driver’s car was stoned and the driver had to flee for his life on foot. It’s possible he was talking about the much-reported violence that happened in Sandton in May.
Drivers have apparently been in communication with Uber about it, but, at best, the response has come across as inconsistent and unhelpful, the driver told us.
As we took a seat inside the train, a security official was trying to talk to a lady who seemed to have witnessed a similar incident. They talked about it for some time after the official left. I don’t know who has taken action or what has been reported, but I do hope something will be done.
It is unfortunate that Uber drivers need to face this level of victimisation, and it is grossly unwarranted. I see the metro police and police cars in the area, but at the spot where the Uber drivers are targeted, there is not one officer to be seen.