Uber drivers say they don’t feel safe

13 June 2017 - 16:55 By Kgaugelo Masweneng
The logo for Uber is shown on a vehicle.
The logo for Uber is shown on a vehicle.
Image: Robert Galbraith / Reuters

In the wake of reports of attacks on Uber drivers‚ the drivers say they do not feel safe or protected by Uber itself or the police.

“The problem is that we are not safe‚ Uber does not care about our safety‚ they are doing nothing even though they are aware of the criminality directed at the drivers.” said Zweli Ngwenya‚‚ a spokesperson for the Uber drivers Ngwenya said that it is sad that they had to work under such threats.

“You don’t know when they will strike. It is getting complicated‚ we are attacked from many sides. I know about at least 20 Uber cars that were smashed in Gauteng‚ and nothing was done about that. In fact‚ from my eyewitness account‚ the police ignore these crimes even when they occur in their vicinity.”

The spokesperson also claimed that when about 200 Uber drivers operating around Eastgate Mall had protested against ongoing intimidation and attacks‚ allegedly by metered taxi drivers‚ Uber had called the mall management and told them they don’t recognise the drivers.

“Even when Uber drivers had barricaded 7th Avenue in Parktown North at their offices to protest against Uber not protecting us‚ they responded by saying that they do not recognise us. They said that they only recognise individuals and not a mob of drivers.’ Ngwenya charged.

On Tuesday Uber South Africa said that it was "devastated" to confirm the brutal attack of a driver-partner in Pretoria this past weekend.

With riders advising the company of more attacks on drivers‚ Uber called on the police and government to do its part as it could not fight the criminality on its own.

"We want to make it clear – this sort of violence is completely unacceptable‚ unlawful and needs to stop‚" the company said in a statement.

Initial investigations by Uber show the driver-partner was in Pretoria when he was attacked by a small group.

His car was set alight while he was in the vehicle‚ leading to him sustaining serious injuries.

He is currently in hospital in a critical condition‚ Uber said.

"This incident is deeply upsetting to all of us at Uber. This driver-partner is a part of our community.

"We are in contact with his family and we have visited him at the hospital – our thoughts continue to be with him while we do all we can to help with the ongoing investigation to bring his attackers to justice. We are working with law enforcement officials to fully support their investigation and we have a team of former law enforcement professionals who are ready to work with and assist the police at anytime during their investigation."

However‚ some drivers have experienced similar attacks and claim that Uber did not do much to address their grievances.

A victim of car arson‚ Uber driver Patrick Funeka‚ said that last week on Thursday in Malvern East‚ Germiston‚ he was attacked and his car burned to ashes.

“I was preparing to go fetch a client when four men approached and surrounded my car and started making side conversations while checking it out. One of them shouted ‘this is the one’‚ after looking at the number plate. And the other aggressively pulled me out of the car and asked if I am an Uber driver or Taxify. Before I could respond they were beating me up and they immediately threw a flamed liquid bottle at my car and it started burning.” he said

Funeka said that he reported the case to the police and it was still under investigation. However‚ he feels that Uber is not doing much to protect its drivers.

“I feel unsafe and helpless at the situation‚” he said

According to Gauteng police spokesperson Kay Makhubela‚ they are not aware of Uber attack hotspots and they urge the public to report any such places.

“If both the driver or the commuter feels unsafe at any location‚ they should immediately alert the police. There is enough police presence in the city.”