Uber drivers increasingly fear for their safety

Some Uber drivers of a group called The Movement are growing more concerned for their safety as they say they face increasing incidents of intimidation and hijacking.

The Movement was formed by two groups of Uber drivers after a driver was hijacked and murdered. The Movement hopes to discuss their problems with Uber on a management level but so far, they said, there has been no meeting.

Sthemebiso Mbatha, an Uber driver, had a harrowing experience when he was chased by, what he believes to be, metered taxi drivers. On a Saturday evening, while attending to a pickup in the CBD he noticed a group of metered taxis. While trying to find where his client was, a white van with five men inside approached his car.

“I was anticipating trouble so I wasn’t completely stationary,” he said.

“As soon as I saw that [the men were getting out of their vehicle] I ran, I put my foot flat on the accelerator. It was at night, in an unfamiliar place.”

The van apparently followed Mbatha onto a one-way road with oncoming traffic and continued to follow him for a few streets before losing him at a red light.

Another driver, Tebogo Shalang was hijacked by three men who had requested an Uber trip. “They said to me they were DJs and they have been playing for Billy the Bums and they were going to The Blue Room in Pretoria,” he said.

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“Immediately after we passed the Atterbury off-ramp going to the N4, Emalahleni, the [one] guy [took] out a gun and [said] to me, ‘My man, you know what, we are no longer doing this Uber anymore’.”

Shalang was ordered to move to the passenger seat and one of the men began driving towards Mamelodi. He managed to jump out of the car and the three men drove off with his car and all of his belongings. Shalang received help and his car was recovered a few hours later, completely stripped.

Uber driver, Mcebo Ngomane, was shot at six times during at attempted hijacking. His car shows the remnants of the bullet holes.

Mcebo Ngomane, another Uber driver has been the victim of an attempted hijacking during which his car was shot at six times. He claimed he had been intimidated by metered taxi drivers during a pickup at the Centurion Gautrain Station.

Ngomane, with a passenger, were chased along the N1 highway by a blue Nissan Livina. They both luckily managed to escape unscathed but Ngomane said, “Every time you wake up you’re not even sure if you’re going to come back home.”

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Drivers have said they feel Uber has not done enough to address their problems. One of the suggestions made was requiring cash trip passengers to provide some form of personal information on the app.

Teresa Munchick, a representative for The Movement said, “We don’t understand why on earth Uber is not implementing some kind of safety check. When you have a bank card at least it is linked to you. You know, an ID or a passport.”

Samantha Allenberg, the spokesperson for Uber said, “We do not feel that it should be about Uber or taxi but rather Uber and taxi. The threats and intimidation against those who want to use Uber to boost their income are unacceptable.

”We take any situation where driver safety is compromised extremely seriously. Driver-partners have access to an emergency line in the event they feel unsafe in any way. We have a dedicated team working 24/7 in South Africa and around the world to support our commitment to safety.”

  AUTHOR
Laura Pisanello

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