Taxi war creates opportunity for e-hailing cabs

An Uber driver who spoke to the Northern News says he only serves regular customers and has deserted one of his busiest routes in Bellville.

With most minibus taxis mothballed by ongoing violence, there’s extra money to be made by e-hailing cab drivers, but they say they’re cautious about exploiting the opportunity.

More than 80 people have died in the violence linked to the feuding between the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata) and the Congress of Democratic Taxi Association (Codeta) since the beginning of the year, according to the Department of Transport and Public Works.

Last Friday, the department’s MEC Dalyin Mitchell announced a two-month closure of route B97 between Mbekweni/Paarl and Bellville. Also closed are all routes and ranks, including lanes and long-distance route facilities, at the Bellville Public Transport Interchange.

With the minibus taxis out of action and Cape Town’s commuter train system in a state of collapse, buses and e-hailing services are among the few options that remain for the city’s longer-suffering commuters. And the recent reopening of schools has only added to the demand.

“Business has been good, especially on the Bellville route,” says Simbarashe, an Uber driver.

He says he has heard of other drivers receiving threats for working routes covered by the minibus taxi associations, but he has not experienced it himself. Nevertheless, he tells us he only wants to be identified as Simbarashe for safety reasons.

An e-hailing driver, who didn’t want to be named at all, uses both Uber and Bolt, and he says on a normal weekend he makes R1 000, but last Saturday alone he made R2 000.

Another Uber driver says he deliberately avoids Bellville because of the taxi violence. He only takes trip requests from regular customers because he fears taxi drivers may trap them.

An Uber spokesperson said they were “monitoring the situation on the ground” and a team was available 24/7 to respond immediately to incidents.

“We encourage driver-partners and riders to report any incidents of intimidation to Uber and the police to ensure these issues can be resolved,” the company said.

Bolt regional manager Gareth Taylor was evasive and only explained Bolt’s safety measures for drivers.

Bloekombos and Wallacedene Taxi Association (Bloewata) spokesperson Mawethu Sila says they are losing a lot of money because of the violence.

But Bloewata, a Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association-affiliate, doesn’t bar e-hailing taxi drivers from its rank, he says, because that would inconvenience the association’s customers.

Amanda Nonkenke, of Bloekombos, says she has been inconvenienced by the lack of taxis, and the e-hailing cabs are expensive.

“I work in the city, and I won’t be able to go there every day. And I cannot work from home. Fortunately, we’ve made an arrangement with my boss. But what about others who now have to take Ubers with probably already cut salaries?”

At a press briefing held by Premier Alan Winde on Tuesday July 20, provincial government leaders urged e-hailing drivers to report any acts of intimidation to the police.

Mr Winde said the taxi violence was squeezing an already ailing Western Cape economy and he promised that “warlords and thugs” would be rooted out of the industry.