‘Illegal’ protest against Uber in Joburg

The headquarters of Uber in San Francisco. (Eric Risberg, AP)
The headquarters of Uber in San Francisco. (Eric Risberg, AP)

Johannesburg - A group of taxi drivers launched protest action against internet ride sharing service Uber in Johannesburg on Friday without the necessary permission from local police.

The head of Uber for sub-Saharan Africa, Alon Lits, told Fin24 that the “illegal” protest happened earlier on Friday and that the protesters have since “come and gone”.

Lits, who is based in Uber’s Johannesburg office in Parktown North, said his team has not been at the office on Friday because of the protest.

Posts on social media emerged on Friday indicating that taxi protesters intended to move from a park in Sandton to the Uber office a few kilometers away in Parktown North.

However, spokesperson for the Johannesburg Metro Police Edna Mamonyane said protesters had not received permission from authorities to launch their picketing action on public roads in the city.

“As metro police we are the custodian of the Gathering Act together with Saps (South African Police Service) and we don’t have anything from the metered taxis,” Mamonyane told Fin24.

“So, what we have done is send officers to go and check.

“We might have to open a case against them. We can’t let people wake up and go do anything they like,” said Mamonyane.

Mamonyane said permission for protest action on public roads is needed to ensure the likes of free flow of traffic and road diversions.

Protesters’ demands

Local newspaper the Sandton Chronicle has posted a video to YouTube of the protest that outlines the metered taxi drivers’ demands.

Speaking in the video is Lucas Seale, who is the spokesperson for the Gauteng Metered Taxi Operations.

“Uber is not a very fair competitor when you come to this industry, because of their price, they’re next to nothing,” said Seale.

“It’s actually destroying the economy of the country - that’s what they are doing,” he added.

In the video, he also accused Uber of exploiting its partner drivers and not being faithful to them. He also accused Uber of prompting “black-on-black” violence.

Watch the video:

Uber on the protest

“That happened this morning. They did go to our offices, but it’s long over now,” Uber’s Alon Lits told Fin24.

“It’s not going on at the moment,” Lits told Fin24 on Friday afternoon.

“It was an illegal protest. They had no form of approval or court documents to officially protest. So, it was an illegal gathering.

“It was an illegal gathering of taxi operators who have no affiliation to any formal taxi association in Gauteng or Johannesburg. So, they seem to be some form of splinter group and their intention was to deliver a memorandum to us. We haven’t seen that memorandum.

“They were peaceful, but it was an illegal protest,” he said.

Lits further said that he welcomes engagements with the taxi drivers and ways that Uber can partner with them.

A protest against Uber was launched by metered taxi drivers in Cape Town earlier this year in January.

Uber is also discussing a clear route to licensing its drivers in Cape Town. Traffic officials in Cape Town have impounded over 200 Uber vehicles this year amid drivers not having metered taxi licences.

In Johannesburg, Uber drivers obtain chartered service licences, which are said to be less onerous to receive than metered taxi licences.

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