One person 'shot' during e-hailing taxi protest

Uber drivers blocked the M1 highway in Johannesburg yesterday to voice their frustrations over remuneration rates./TWITTER
Uber drivers blocked the M1 highway in Johannesburg yesterday to voice their frustrations over remuneration rates./TWITTER

One person was apparently shot with a rubber bullet during a protest by e-hailing taxi service drivers yesterday.

The protest took place on the M1 north, towards Kramerville, Sandton.

Shortly after 1pm, police had to disperse Bolt (formerly Taxify) and Uber drivers after they had caused a traffic backlog since Wednesday morning, as they voiced their frustrations over remuneration rates.

Police admitted to firing rubber bullets, but said they had not received reports of anyone being injured.

However, a video posted on social media shows a man with a bloody wound just above his right hip - seemingly caused by a rubber bullet.

Thabiso Sithole, who said he was an Uber driver, said their complaints fell on deaf ears.

"I joined Uber when it was launched in the country and we were promised to make at least R8,000 a week.

"But they have not controlled the influx of drivers and so this makes it difficult to make money.

"This app is bankrupting me. I cannot afford the life I am living right now. I literally live month to month. I don't even want to talk about my health," Sithole said.

"In order for you to make that money, you don't rest. There's a lot of things that are wrong. We are also fighting the lack of recognition and regulation of the business."

He said the companies needed to do more to standardise pricing in a manner that will not leave the drivers worse off.

The lack of safety for both drivers and commuters was also raised as a concern.

"The Land Transport Act doesn't recognise e-hailing transport. We are not recognised by any government structure and so we are not protected. It's easy for people to tell you to start an app and stop complaining but we all know that's not an easy thing," said Sithole.

Meanwhile, Uber has denied that its drivers were involved.

"We have investigated the protest in Johannesburg and based on the current information we have received, this is not related to Uber. Riders and drivers can continue to use the Uber app as usual," Uber South Africa said.

Police spokesperson Lt-Col Kay Makhubele said they had no reports of injuries or damage to property.

"They were blocking roads and inconveniencing other motorists. We managed to control the scene and they have all left.

"Yes, there were rubber bullets shot but we don't know of any injuries," Makhubele said.

Meanwhile, nearly four out of every five e-hailing operators are working without valid licences.

This is one of the key findings of the Competition Commission, which released its two-part provisional report yesterday after its inquiry into the public passenger transport market, and e-hailing and metered taxi services.

The inquiry was set up in 2018 after the commission received a number of complaints about the transport industry.

The commission found that 79% of e-hailing operators were providing a service without valid licences.

"No reliable data is available to quantify the proportion of metered taxis that are operating without valid licences, but submissions received by the commission portray a significant proportion operating without valid licences," the report says. - Additional Reporting Nomahlubi Jordaan

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