Traffic came to a standstill on the R24 on Friday morning after angry metered taxi operators took to the road, blocking off critical sections of the highway and demanding that Uber cease operating in South Africa.
The go-slow action, which began at 4.30am this morning, caused havoc for motorists caught up in the jam, with many forced to pull over and park their cars on the side of the road, while hundreds of travellers are expected to miss their flights. The Airports Company of SA (ACSA) has said that it is negotiating with airlines to find solutions for travellers who have subsequently missed their flights.
Gauteng Traffic Police spokesperson Busaphi Nxumalo said traffic officials are working to clear the road, but warned that motorists could expect delays for a further hour or two.
Spokesperson for the Gauteng Metered Taxi Association, Reuben Mzayiya, told DestinyConnect that plans are afoot to mobilise drivers for similar road blockades in Pretoria, Cape Town and Bloemfontein. He said the main reason for this morning’s blockade was the “illegality” of Uber.
“It was an organised strike for Johannesburg by operators. And I’d like to say that we’re not criminals. What we are doing is trying to get the government to pay attention to our concerns. Uber drivers do not need to register with the Department of Transport and neither do they need to get a Certificate of Fitness for their cars. This is a very unfair situation,” Mzayiya said.
He added that the launch of taxi-hailing app YooKoo Ridee earlier this week, which was developed specifically for the SA Taxi Association was a “step in the right direction”, but would not solve the problem of Uber’s “exploitative” rates.
“You cannot charge someone R20 to take them home from Park Station. What about petrol and other costs? Our drivers are trying to feed their families, so can’t charge these exploitative rates. The government and South Africans should think about the need to support South African taxis, rather than Uber, which is international,” he said.
Mzayiya said the association is demanding a meeting with the Department of Transport and Premiers of the various provinces before other similar planned blockades would be called off.
Nxumalo said the protest action is illegal and that drivers who refused to move their vehicles would be arrested and their vehicles impounded. “Even if there’s a problem, you can’t just block the road and cause a mess for everybody. They need to go back to the drawing board, engage with the MEC for Transport and all other relevant stakeholders to negotiate and do things properly,” she said.
Motorists have been urged to avoid the R24 and R21 if possible and make use of alternative routes.