Uber drivers fear for safety

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He feared for his life as another helpless victim of a robbery on Monday in Yeoville, Johannesburg.

Zungu relived the harrowing ordeal to about 80 other Uber drivers yesterday, saying his client was told to get out of the vehicle.

In their numbers, Uber drivers converged at Zoo Lake in Johannesburg yesterday to discuss their safety concerns and to plan future protests.

“They [Uber] take their cut of 20% and turn their backs on us. They do not care about my life as an Uber driver – they just care about their cut,” said Zungu.

Drivers said the app-based cab hailing service looked like a perfect system from the outside but customers were not always aware of the daily realities faced by drivers.

Uber drivers have organised a safety awareness campaign to take place on Friday. It is meant, they say, to highlight the plight of drivers who are constantly harassed by metered taxi drivers, hijacked, beaten and at times deactivated from Uber.

The drivers said they had tried to hand over a memorandum – with 300 signatures – last year requesting a meeting with Uber management but that was unsuccessful.

Teresa Munchik, a representative of the drivers, said that Uber management had refused to recognise them and preferred to deal directly with individuals.

Another representative, Zweli Ngwenya, who has been an Uber driver for more than a year, said police were inundated with cases opened by drivers. “Uber drivers are scared to speak out because they are being deactivated.

“When you call the emergency line to report theft or damage to Uber cars, they [Uber] immediately deactivate you because you aren’t accessible.”

Uber spokesman Samantha Allenberg said drivers’ safety was very important and that new safety features were being incorporated into the app “but crime, unfortunately, is a reality in South Africa”.

“Incidents are happening all the time and we [try hard to] investigate the incident to determine whether it is something related to Uber or not,” Allenberg said.

“Based on the reports that we have received over the last couple of months, there have been incidents where two drivers have been killed, but we engaged police on that and we have no reason to believe that it was related to Uber in any way.”

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