Uber doesn’t seem to be able to catch a break at the moment.
On Friday, metered taxi drivers staged an illegal protest outside Uber’s HQ in Johannesburg. Then, over the weekend, an Uber driver was apparently threatened at gun point.
Recounting the experience to Eyewitness News (EWN), Melinda Bason said that she and her husband saw metered taxi drivers harass their Uber driver and threaten to beat him up at gunpoint.
“They grabbed the keys from the ignition, intimidating him,” she said. “There was a gun involved and intimidation with that weapon. They were screaming that [Uber] were taking away business from South Africa and Uber must go back to Germany.”
Bason added that their driver eventually left the area, promising to pick them up one street over, but she said that it was then that the metered taxi drivers turned on her husband. “We are the meter taxi guys; you are not part of the public transport committee. You shouldn’t have the right to operate here,” she recalls them saying in reference to Uber’s operations in South Africa.
According to EWN, she says “they then reported the incident to the nearby metro police, but the officers on duty were disinterested and made no effort to help the Uber drivers.”
Uber South Africa CEO Alon Litz said that the company worried about the spate of threats to its drivers and their safety.
“It’s not an environment where it’s about Uber or taxi. It’s about Uber and taxi and how can we find a way to co-exist.”
Litz further stressed that Uber isn’t a taxi company, but rather a company that simply makes use of technology.
“Uber is a not a transportation company, we are a technology platform. Our technology is open and pro-choice and we are keen to offer it to a broad number of taxi drivers to boost their occupancy rates and chances for profit. In fact many metered taxi drivers are already using our technology to boost their incomes and we would welcome more who wish to join their colleagues.”