Uber drivers fear for their safety

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Uber drivers fear for their safety

Shenaaz Jamal | 2017-02-07 16:19:09.0

The logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone. File photo.

Image by: SERGIO PEREZ/REUTERS

Uber driver Thembikhosi Zungu was in the process of collecting a cash paying customer when he was threatened with a gun.

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

He relived the harrowing ordeal‚ saying his passenger was told to get out of the vehicle‚ when about 80 Uber drivers gathered to discuss their safety concerns at Zoo Lake on Tuesday.

“They (Uber) take their cut of 20% and turn their backs on us. They don’t care about my life as Uber driver – they just care about their cut‚” said Zungu.

Drivers said the App-driven cab 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 convoy to take place on Friday‚ to highlight the plight of drivers who are constantly harassed by meter taxi drivers‚ hijacked‚ beaten and deactivated from Uber.

Drivers said that 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 refused to recognise representatives and preferred to deal directly with individuals.

Zweli Ngwenya‚ another representative who has been an Uber driver for over a year‚ said that 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 immediately deactivate you because you aren’t accessible‚” said Ngwenya.

Uber spokesperson Samantha Allenberg said the safety of drivers was important and new safety features were being incorporated into the App but crime‚ unfortunately‚ was a reality in South Africa.

“Incidents are happening all the time and when there are we investigate the incident to determine whether it is something related to Uber or not‚” she 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 with the police on that and we have no reason to believe that it was related to Uber in anyway‚” said Allenberg.



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