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The City of Cape Town has issued a statement saying that it fully “supports Uber operators”. The statement was issued in the wake of mass action on social media and online petition in protest of the fact that the city had impounded more than 200 Uber partner drivers’ cars so far in 2015.
“The City of Cape Town is supportive of electronic hailing and welcomes its addition to our public transport offering,” he says, “It must be stated though that metered taxi services, like minibus-taxi services, may only be provided by those operators who are in possession of a valid operating licence. This is in addition to the driver having a public driving permit (PDP)”.
While he acknowledges that Uber in itself is not a public transport operator, he maintains the city position that “each and every vehicle that operates any kind of public transport service must have a public transport operating licence”.
“This includes all metered taxi operators, irrespective whether a driver is using e-hailing to source passengers or the traditional call centre, or whether the driver is operating from on-street taxi embayments that are provided by the City,” Heron writes.
He also points out that “the Uber management is very aware of this fact, as I have told them so myself during several meetings”.
According to Heron, the city actually gave Uber an inadvertent leg-up in Cape Town, by advising it to “apply for metered taxi operating licences since, in the absence of a licensing category that exactly matches their operations”. “In hindsight, this was sound advice since the proposed amendments to national legislation include e-hailing under the metered taxi category”.
“The City has gone out of its way to assist Uber and their partners to become lawful operators,” he says, “Ultimately it is their responsibility to conduct their business lawfully and to have fully understood the regulations that govern the industry they planned to enter”.
It seems unlikely however that the statement will do anything to appease Uber or its supporters. Perhaps most glaringly it doesn’t address Uber’s claims that its own standards are more rigorous than those required for the operating permit.
It also palms responsibility for the slow release of operating permits onto the Provincial Regulatory Entity mandated with the granting of operating licences, which it says “has not made any decision on these applications as yet”.
For its part, Uber clearly has the support of many Cape Town citizens. In two days more than 16 000 people have signed an online petition put up by the multi-billion dollar company requesting that the outstanding operating permits be rushed through.
“A process that should take no longer than a few weeks has been dragging on for over 6 months and still no operating permits have been issued to Uber driver partners,” the company writes in a blog post accompanying the petition. “Yet, it appears that operating licenses have been issued to large metered taxi fleet operators, favouring these incumbent operators”.
Heron’s statement does not address this accusation, stating only that the city had supported “1 030 metered taxi operating licences for operators who will be using Uber as a technology partner”. These operating licences are spread among 311 operators using Uber as technology partner as some operators applied for more than one operating licence.