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Update: We’ve received the following comment from Uber South Africa regarding the #TaxiStrike:
Our technology is open and pro-choice and we are keen to offer it to a broad number of taxi drivers to boost their chances for profit.
In fact many metered taxi drivers are already using our technology to boost their incomes and we would welcome more who wish to join their colleagues. We do not feel that it should be about Uber or Taxi but rather Uber AND Taxi. Threats and intimidation against those who want to use Uber to boost their income is unacceptable. Today’s protest only underlines why people are increasingly choosing safe, reliable alternatives like Uber.
Safety, reliability, innovation and choice are why the people of Johannesburg are choosing Uber’s world-class digital technology.
The company has also confirmed that service is “operating as normal”.
Original article: Residents of Gauteng, particularly Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni this morning woke up to yet another on-road protest, this time involving metered taxi drivers protesting against on-demand transportation service Uber.
According to Ekhuruleni Metro Police spokesperson Kobedi Mokheseng, the protest began at around 4.3oam SAST, with taxi drivers taking to the R24 — the primary inlet to OR Tambo International Airport — to stem the flow of motor vehicles.
By around 6am, Twitter resembled Johannesburg’s roads, with a slew of motorists stuffing the social network with complaints, images and videos of their morning journey.
— Cllr Tim (Ward 117) (@jozi117) March 10, 2017
The hashtag #TaxiStrike began trending around the same time too, and remains the top-billed trending topic countrywide at the time of writing. But people aren’t simply tweeting about their experiences sitting in traffic. Many are defending Uber.
Uber is once again thrown under the spotlight by the latest #TaxiStrike to affect Johannesburg and surrounds
One user likened the protest to “candle factory workers trying to close down (a) bulb factory”. Others felt the same way.
Blackberry and Nokia died when they stopped meeting customer needs, why should transportation be different? #taxistrike
— Ndumiso M (@AwesomeSnowman) March 10, 2017
This meter #TaxiStrike is like candle factory workers trying to close down bulb factory. Uber is inevitable.
— Asemahle (@asemahlep) March 10, 2017
#taxistrike reality check… McDonald’s didn’t strike when Burger King arrived…meter taxi can’t get angry at uber is the people’s choice.
— Mr – J (@jelroyskippers1) March 10, 2017
— SaPiEn (@that_wise_guy_) March 10, 2017
#TaxiStrike meter taxis should adapt or just shut up. Thats the nature of business
— Kimo Mazibuko (@kimo_swazzie) March 10, 2017
— IamAFRICA (@Bam76Lulu) March 10, 2017
— Simon Mpilo (@mpilo_simon) March 10, 2017
Some sentiment explains that Uber (and incidentally, Taxify) is “better and cheaper” than metered taxis.
If metered taxi drivers can create a system better and cheaper than Uber/Taxify then we will use them again. Period!
— Jay MacLezi (@JayMaclezi) March 10, 2017
Meter taxi’s are striking because they lack innovation #TaxiStrike
— Tshidiso Molwantwa (@Contra_SA) March 10, 2017
If you can’t compete, then you go out of business! Don’t force us to use your crap services #TaxiStrike
— Darran Nadas (@DarranNMusic) March 10, 2017
Prices as of this morning
Sandton to OR Tambo:
Uber: R210 – R280
Taxify: R265 – R360
Meter taxi: R500#TaxiStrike
— Odirile Ramafsi (@odirileramafsi) March 10, 2017
Not in the most serious manner, perhaps…
From Midrand To Sandton.
Public Taxi: R11
Meter Taxi: R1.2 Million
— Super Mario (@Martiias) March 10, 2017
Some noted that the #TaxiStrike and larger situation isn’t simply a notion of “adapt or die”.
— Poeletjo M (@Poe_Kuri) March 10, 2017
Organisations, political figures and parties have also used Twitter as a mouthpiece to air their views regarding the incident.
SANTACO, South Africa’s national taxi council, called for government intervention on Twitter regarding the “Uber problem”.
Meter taxi strike at OR Tambo airport. Unless govt seriously deals with Uber problem, these sporadic strikes may spiral out of control.
— SANTACO (@SA_Taxis) March 10, 2017
Uber itself published an interesting comment on its timeline in response to a disrupted user.
“Today’s protest only underlines why people are increasingly choosing safe, reliable alternatives like Uber,” the company wrote in a two-tweet reply.
@ebijooma We’re so sorry to hear about the disruption to your day. Today’s protest only underlines why people are increasingly [1/2]
— Uber South Africa (@Uber_RSA) March 10, 2017
@ebijooma choosing safe, reliable alternatives like Uber.
— Uber South Africa (@Uber_RSA) March 10, 2017
Johannesburg traffic remains ‘a mess’
The current traffic in and around Johannesburg remains fragmented. The N12 is “a mess”, on Twitter user notes.
Click the image for live Google Maps of Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni’s traffic.
— TheRealChironga (@EliahChironga) March 10, 2017
To add to the traffic woes, there’s also a truck crash being cleared at the N12/R24 Gillooly’s Interchange.
— Rob Byrne (@TrafficSA) March 10, 2017
N12/R24 at Gillooly’s, both east and west affected! Delays!!!! pic.twitter.com/V1FhmfAgKr
— Cije England (@CijeRCE) March 10, 2017
Uber’s previous problems in South Africa
It’s not the first time Uber has come under fire from citizens or governance in South Africa.
In early 2015, the Metered Taxi Council of the Western Cape called for the shuttering of the service. Roadblocks outside the Johannesburg traffic department in the CBD also took place in mid-2016, when metered taxi drivers sought answers from Gauteng’s transport MEC.
We’ve reached out to Uber South Africa for comment, but have yet to receive a reply at the time of publication.
Feature image: Automobile Italia via Flickr (CC 2.0, resized)