Want to force me to ride in your taxi? Gaan vlieg in jou moer
There is a saying in Afrikaans which needs no translation. It’s beautifully descriptive and it goes like this: "Gaan vlieg in jou moer in." (Go to hell)
Its my newly adopted attitude towards South Africa's metered taxi associations‚ and their drivers’ brute thuggish approach to Uber and the thousands of South Africans who rely on the company's quick‚ cheap and efficient service to get around the country's cities.
My attitude changed to this on Wednesday as I left the Sandton Gautrain station and approached an uber driver who was waiting for me. As I walked towards him he began hooting frantically and pointing to something behind me.
Turning around I saw four men approaching me at a pace screaming and yelling at me to "voetsek" ordering me away from the car.
Without introductions I knew who they were - the much-feared Sandton self-regulated meter taxi guards who rule with iron fists‚ threats and steel poles.
The Uber driver was stuck. Cars had stopped in front of him at the red traffic light.
You will not ride in this Uber. You will walk or use our taxis
I moved to get into the car only to be shoved back by two of the men.
"You will not ride in this Uber. You will walk or use our taxis‚" one of them screamed at me.
My response: "F*ck off. This is my Uber ride and I am getting in."
The two became aggressive‚ pushing me against the vehicle before shoving me away. Something snapped. I can’t quite remember what is was but my usual calm demeanour was gone.
It was replaced with a blind rage.
As these thugs banged on the passenger door keeping me from getting in‚ another hoodlum was trying to open the driver's door.
I ran to him and pushed in between him and the Uber driver.
Motorists were driving past‚ avoiding the confrontation in the street.
Security guards a few meters away did nothing.
The driver's attacker pushed me against the door.
"This is our rank. Uber drivers know that they can’t be within 500m of our rank‚" he screamed pointing at a series of yellow lines painted on the road outside the Alexander Forbes office.
"That’s a no parking zone I screamed back."
The metered taxi guards' response: "Yes‚ but it’s our rank and Uber can’t be here. They cannot park here‚ they are illegal‚ they have no permits and we are the bosses. That’s the agreement with the Department of Transport."
By this time the Uber driver [who has asked not to be named out of fear for his safety] had made his escape‚ parking outside the nearby Avis shop.
Pushing me away‚ another metered taxi guard demanded I leave Sandton and their rank. My response: "Gaan vlieg in jou moer in."
Tempers flared and pushing continued until another "guard" intervened asking me to leave the area for my own safety.
My response was that I was calling the Uber driver‚ I was going to catch the Uber‚ and that for their safety they had better leave me alone.
As I spoke to the Uber driver on the phone‚ I walked to the centre island before making my way towards the car‚ a "guard" following me.
It was as I got into his car‚ another metered taxi driver who had followed me in his vehicle‚ blocked us with his vehicle‚ hurling abuse towards us.
The Uber driver pleaded with me not to do anything.
"Leave it. I know him. We are both from Limpopo. I will get him to leave."
To say I was shocked‚ is an understatement.
That thugs‚ whose concept of the freedom of movement and choice is non existent‚ can dare to think that they can dictate what form of transport anyone can use is unbelievable.
Yes‚ I have written on previous attacks against Uber drivers. I have heard the horror stories and listened to Uber drivers‚ who have given me lifts before‚ about their fears over whether they will get home alive to see their families again.
For me what is happening is unbelievable.
More despairingly there is a glaring lack of police presence around busy taxi collection zones‚ in particular Gautrain stations.
Yes the police park a vehicle outside some of the stations and other busy zones‚ but they seem to enjoy doing just that: parking off in their vehicle seemingly doing little if anything to stop the harassment of people by these thugs.
The thought of being held to ransom does not sit well with me. For me it was time to stand up and say "Gaan vlieg in jou moer in” to anyone who wishes to threaten me for choosing to use Uber.