Uber said on Friday it was a technology company connecting riders with independent drivers through a smartphone app.
“Uber is not a taxi nor is it a taxi or transportation company. It does not employ any drivers nor own any vehicles. We partner with independent contractors and have enabled more than 4 000 economic opportunities since launching in South Africa,” spokesperson Samantha Allenberg said.
“Threats and intimidation against those who want to use it to boost their income is unacceptable. Today’s protest underlines why people are increasingly choosing safe, reliable alternatives like Uber.”
In a surreal twist, a number of Uber drivers protested at the same time as the metered taxi blockade outside Uber’s Parktown, Johannesburg, offices over concerns the company was not doing enough to protect them.
David Myers, head of trust and safety of Middle East and Africa, noted drivers had access to a number which linked them to a central control room which would contact the drivers nearest security or medical response partner.
“We learned a great deal from a pilot last year, most importantly that the response time needed to be reduced,” he said.
Allenberg said it was committed to working with drivers to provide them with the tools they need to run their own businesses.
“This includes information sessions about using the app, guidance for using a smartphone efficiently, GPS and navigation, health and safety best practices, working with e-mail or tips on how to improve service to riders,” said Allenberg.
“Uber has now partnered with multiple private security companies because they are suburb-specific – this means help will get to driver-partners far quicker than before.
“All driver-partners operating on the platform have completed the requisite steps in applying for their operating licences, under the current National Land Transport Act. Uber is an open technology and we welcome anyone who wishes to use it to boost their chances for profits.”
Allenberg said they had been in talks with the department of transport for more than three years and confirmed Gauteng roads and transport MEC Ismail Vadi had begun issuing operating licences.
Metered taxi owners protest that:
- Uber is illegal and perpetuates noncompliance and lawlessness.
- Uber mocks the law instead of complying with the law.
- Uber is running deceptive commercial practices.
- Uber is antiradical economic transformation.
- Uber exploits, enslaves, suppresses and impoverishes the poor and vulnerable black Africans, and disowns them thereafter.
- Uber knows no basic conditions of employment.
- Uber is akin to economic genocide and economic terrorism.
- Uber’s technology disrupts and destroys the meter taxi industry and disempowers people.