Taxi owners warn of war

2019-10-21 16:47
Taxis waiting for passengers on Langalibalele Street. PHOTO: Ian Carbutt

Taxis waiting for passengers on Langalibalele Street. PHOTO: Ian Carbutt (Ian Carbutt)

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Local metered taxi owners have warned of a brewing war with operators of the taxi hailing apps in the city.

Sam Seesha, who owns a local taxi company, accused Uber and Taxify of operating freely without permits.

“These international franchises have already taken 70% of our business and if we sit back and do nothing, they will take us out of business. In Spain and London these companies were banned, why can’t South Africa do the same or at least find a way to regulate their operations like how we’re regulated. It’s affecting everybody,” he said.

Seesha said normal taxi operators are required to have operating permits, which allow them to pick up people in certain areas only, valid roadworthy certificates, a professional driving permit, third party liability insurance and a health clearance certificate, whereas the app taxis only have third party liability insurance.

“Some of them also put up taxi signs on their cars and call people to ride with them, which is not allowed because they must use the app,” he said.

“We already have a problem with taxi operators who don’t have permits and now we have to compete with these app taxis stealing our customers. If this is allowed to go on there might be a war.”

Seesha said because their industry was not properly regulated, there was a lot of conflict among people within the taxi business.

“We are in the process of forming an independent metered taxi association, but we also need the municipality and the Department of Transport to also play their part in insuring that everyone complies. There is a huge demand for our services as we are a safer mode of public transport,” he said.

Francis Armitage, who also owns a local metered taxi company, said he also had fears that things might go sour.

“I think we have the makings of a serious war because we have four groups — Taxify, Uber, registered taxis and unregistered taxis — who are just taking chances, all competing for the same customers.

“The municipality has got to clarify how to register and has got to deal with people who are not registered,” he said.

Sithembiso Ndlovu, a taxi owner who operates at the Liberty Midlands Mall, said he and his colleagues who frequent the mall had no problem with Taxify and Uber.

“The only problem is that some Taxify drivers put up taxi signs like us, that’s not right,” he said.

'Report the culprits'

Gareth Taylor, country manager for Bolt, which was formerly known as Taxify, said they were aware of friction between metered taxi drivers and ride-hailing drivers in Pietermaritzburg.

“Bolt condemns any violence, intimidation or extortion directed towards ride-hailing drivers, meter taxis or anyone who earns a living through transport services, because it believes that every South African has the right to earn a living without risk of harm, intimidation or coercion,” he said.

Taylor said drivers using the Bolt platform who display taxi signage or tout for business should be reported via the app. He said any drivers found guilty of this will be removed from their platform.

He said all Bolt vehicles undergo roadworthy assessments upon registering with them. Drivers and vehicle owners are also required to complete vehicle inspections at approved centres and submit their Motor Vehicle Licence Disc with Operator Card (Double Disc), a Vehicle Certificate of Registration, and proof that they have applied for an Operating Licence.

“E-hailing is not governed by the current National Land Transport Act of 2009, which was promulgated before e-hailing platforms existed. Bolt believes that e-hailing operators should not be penalised in regions where there is a backlog of operating licence approvals and licences are not granted due to circumstances beyond drivers’ control,” said Taylor.

Uber spokesperson Samantha Fuller said they continue to engage with the relevant departments on regulations and policies that take into account new forms of mobility.

“However, the current operating licence issuance system is broken for all transport operators, not just for those using e-hailing services like Uber.”

Fuller said Uber will continue to take steps to ensure drivers follow the required steps to apply for their operating permits in terms of the current NLTA [no 5 of 2009], “however, we encourage the relevant departments to fix their issuance systems to ensure licences are being issued within 90 days as per the regulation, before they try to implement these additional traffic by-laws,” she said.

The KwaZulu-Natal Transport Department’s acting spokesperson, Nomfundo Mcetywa, had not responded to questions sent to her by The Witness on Thursday last week.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg
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