Govt says taxi violence threatens tourism industry

2017-09-11 10:09 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - South Africa's Minister of Tourism, Tokozile Xasa has expressed grave concern over incidents of violence between metred taxicab and Uber operators.

In the most recent incident, two vehicles, believed to be Uber taxis, were petrol bombed near the Gautrain station in Sandton on Thursday evening, 7 September. 

Xasa says the situation would undoubtedly have a “negative effect on the tourism industry”.

“In addition to the needless destruction of property and threat on human life, the general mood of uncertainty implicit in the violence threatens the stability of the tourism industry on which thousands of jobs are reliant,” says Xasa. 

Tourists will choose places where they feel safe

“For any domestic or international tourist, the sense of security is as important as the ordinary citizen.

"As citizens, our relationship with South Africa is not one of choice, tourists can elect to visit one place and not another and one country instead of another.”

Xasa says the violence between the metre taxicab and Uber operators could even affect the choice by local passengers to not use their services if the violence continues. 

Following the Gautrain Station incident in Sandton, the twitter-verse expressed their opinion on the matter, with many leaning in favour of Uber. 

Locals also affected

Some cited the lack of service from metered taxis, while others wondered why other companies in competition with each other aren't as violent. 

SEE: Twitter reacts: Escalated Uber and metered taxis battle

Xasa says, “it is self-evident that the operators are cutting off their noses to spite the faces."

In a City Press column over the weekend Xasa stressed "international visitors and taxi commuters are significant for the future of tourism and the national economy".

SEE: Xasa: Discover the joy of being a tourist in SA

"International and domestic tourists are the lifeblood of our industry. Last year, the value of our tourism market reached R102bn, an 11% increase compared with 2015 

Added to this SA Tourism’s ­5-in-5 strategy aims to attract an additional 4 million international tourists and 1 million domestic tourists in the next five years. 

"Every international tourist represents economic and social opportunities for all our people, not only for the more than 700 000 people directly employed in the tourism industry."

Petition launched, over 200 incidents since July

Over the weekend Uber launched a petition calling on Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi and Police Minister Fikile Mbalula to take action following the recent spate of attacks against Uber driver-partners.

The petition on Change.org already had 28 297  supporters as at 10:00 on Monday morning.

Alon Lits, General Manager for Uber Sub-Saharan Africa, said the company was extremely disappointed that the violence against Uber driver-partners continued unabated and those policy makers were blaming the violent behaviour on a "turf war".

Lits said despite a number of discussions with regulators and policy makers, there had been over 200 recorded incidents against driver-partners since July, and still no meaningful interventions or arrests have been made.

"The Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi and Police Minister Fikile Mbalula have made a number of statements that they denounced acts of violence, torching of vehicles and intimidation," says Lits, "But little has been done to stop this criminal activity."

"Like all South Africans, driver-partners using the Uber app want to exercise their freedom to do their jobs and earn a living for their families without fear of intimidation and violence,” says Lits.

'This must stop!'

Ultimately Xasa says the two transport operators urgently need to engage in dialogue to find lasting solutions to their disagreements.

“No one’s life must continue to be placed in danger because two operators are in disagreement with one another. This must stop!”

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