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Uber faces harassment in South Africa from local cabdrivers

July 7, 2015

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Taxi drivers in South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg, met on Tuesday to discuss how to compete with Uber, after rivalry led to drivers of the international ride-hailing service being harassed and intimidated.

The drivers decided Uber should not be allowed to work without an affiliation to a local taxi association or a running meter, said taxi driver Daniel Sejamoholo.

“These people are absolutely out of order,” said Sejamoholo, who has owned a small cab service with his wife Julia since 1996, but has seen profits decrease as Uber’s popularity has grown. The meeting followed a march to Uber’s Johannesburg office last week.

Cabdrivers have intimidated Uber drivers, accusing the internet-based service of undercutting their profits, South African media reported. The incidents were isolated but Uber sent security to risky routes, they said in a statement. The San-Francisco-based company said it was trying to work with local drivers.

With Uber, a 30 kilometer (just over 18 miles) trip from Soweto, to Johannesburg’s city center would cost 200 rand, or $16 — a journey that would cost between 300 and 350 rand, about $24 to $28, with metered cabs.

This saving has made Uber popular with passengers, and the company says it has increased its rides from 1 million in 2014, to 2 million in the first half of this year alone.

In Cape Town, more than 20,000 people signed Uber’s online petition and tweeted their preference for the service with the hashtag CTNeedsUber after city authorities impounded over 200 Uber taxis for operating without a permit. Officials in both cities said they were working on policies to regulate Uber.

Uber has faced opposition from cabdrivers in other cities including Paris, Mexico City and Sao Paulo, with conflict between cabbies and Uber drivers sometimes turning violent.

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