Uber Drivers Harassed in Johannesburg Following Taxi Protest

Uber Technologies Inc. drivers in South Africa’s most populous city are facing harassment following a protest on Friday by taxi operators who compete with the personal transportation service.

Uber has been in contact with the police and deployed security to help prevent intimidation by metered taxi drivers at the Sandton City shopping mall and Sandton Gautrain station in northern Johannesburg, the San Francisco-based company said in a statement on its website on Monday. One Johannesburg woman’s Uber driver was “too scared” to pick her up after being intimidated with a gun by rival taxi drivers in the financial hub, Eyewitness News reported on its website.

There was a “small escalation” in incidents of intimidation following the small, non-violent protest on Friday, Samantha Allenberg, a spokeswoman for Uber Africa, said by phone on Monday. Uber has been in talks with metered taxi associations since the beginning of the year to find a way to partner with them, the company said in the statement.

Uber has faced opposition with taxi operators around the world since its founding as a potentially cheaper and faster alternative in 2009. The company, which connects drivers with passengers via mobile applications in more than 300 cities, was the subject of violent standoffs in Paris last week and suspended its UberPop share-a-ride service in the country. Uber drivers in Cape Town are suffering xenophobic discrimination from traffic police and face lengthy waiting times for license approvals, according to Allenberg.

Allenberg declined to comment on the Eyewitness News report, citing the company’s privacy policy.

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