Metered taxi drivers in Johannesburg blockaded the R24 at both entrances of the OR Tambo International Airport on Friday morning in protest against Uber drivers “stealing their business”. Some passengers missed flights, while others walked to the airport.
The drivers claim the international company’s unregulated low rates have made business difficult for them.
The Daily Vox spoke to some of the drivers about the ways in which Uber has affected them.
We have so many years dealing with metered taxis. So [Uber] just comes from the United States and charges R10 and we used to charge from R30 upwards locally. If we ask, [the government] says this is competition. What kind of competition is that? They are here to rob us, they are killing our business.
We have lost so much. On a day I sit from early and get no one coming. It’s already 11.30am. Those drivers don’t care; they are foreigners. They are working day and night. The government does not care about us even though they know, with these taxis, we are sending our children to school.
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I have seven children. Now I cannot manage to support them. It’s bad with Uber because people who own the cars are running other businesses too. I have been driving a taxi for 30 years and since Uber kicked off in South Africa three years ago, I have lost increasingly. Ten years ago I would make between R10 000 and R15 000 a month. Now I only make about R1 000 a week.
The whole world does not like them because they are crooks. We even fought with the so-called Gauteng government, but [Gauteng roads and transport MEC Ismail] Vadi and [Gauteng Premier David] Makhura support them. [The government] doesn’t care about us. They used to come to us to hold meetings, but they don’t anymore.
We used to charge Uber prices but everything is going up every day like bread. They’re charging prices we charged 15 years ago. The customers don’t care, they want cheaper things. It doesn’t mean we are expensive. If Uber competes with us and charges R50 while we charge R70, that would be okay. Now they come and say R20.
If the government can’t listen, they will see something.
Everywhere in the world there is competition, but it must be done in the right way. There are different types of businesses everywhere but this is the transport business. This is a mistake of a government which has not regulated this. The government is supposed to set a minimum price [of] R40, R50 or R60. Whatever you charge from that should be up to you. But it should not be less than the agreed base amount. That is the bottom line.
The Uber system is fantastic; we need competition. We just believe the prices should be regulated. If the government asked Uber and metered taxi drivers to sit down and agree on a minimum, we would not have problems.
Everyone is losing to Uber because they are charging the least at the expense of the drivers. All those cars belong to the drivers. When we smash them, we smash our brothers’ cars, not Uber cars. They (Uber) only have technology. Whatever happens to drivers outside, Uber says it is not responsible.
Uber has a meter, those phones are meters calculating distance. That meter cannot be fiddled with, unlike ours. The meter we use has four tariffs which can be fiddled with. I can look at someone and charge them more if I think they have a lot of money and they would never know. With Uber you cannot change prices, which is one of the reasons people don’t travel with us.
This is a disaster. The customer will naturally choose the item that is cheaper. We each cope in different ways, we have to organise our own customers. It is very hard to say we are surviving, I am very old. I am 67, who will hire me? I am living hand to mouth. We park and wait for people to come to us and maybe we’ll get foreigners sometimes, but that doesn’t mean we are surviving, no. It is very hard.
Metered taxis are more expensive than Uber, of course. Woolworths is more expensive than Shoprite, but somehow the bread is one price.
Uber is taking our jobs. If Uber charges less, they take our customers. If I were to charge the same price as Uber, I wouldn’t be able to pay for fuel, let alone the maintenance of a car which is so expensive. This is why we hate Uber.
If they increase their price we can work together, but they cannot have it as it is. I have more than 20 years in this business. I was earning about R1 500 a day, today I cannot make even R600.
Metered taxis are not expensive. If Uber continues operating, they are going to be in trouble. Metered taxi drivers are going to burn them.
*Surnames have been removed to protect the identities of the drivers. — The Daily Vox