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A licence to drive

By Malu Copeland
16 July 2015   |   11:55 pm
“WHOEVER brought Uber to South Africa—I love them,” says a driver-entrepreneur on a video promoting the e-hailing service in the country. And why wouldn’t she? With Uber she’s her own boss, in an industry (transport) that’s known to traditionally shut out the fairer sex. As Nelson Mandela said: “We can change the world and make…
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“WHOEVER brought Uber to South Africa—I love them,” says a driver-entrepreneur on a video promoting the e-hailing service in the country. And why wouldn’t she? With Uber she’s her own boss, in an industry (transport) that’s known to traditionally shut out the fairer sex.

As Nelson Mandela said: “We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.” The woman from the video is certainly taking change into her own hands—by literally steering her life into a positive direction.

Madiba’s words strike a chord with the current climate in South Africa (when do they not?). Change is not meant to be easy—it disrupts the status quo, it can make people fearful, resentful.

Based on all the news coming out of South Africa, it is now Uber’s turn there to experience the pushback to change. Much like the backlash experienced by the MyCiTi system, when it created safer, cheaper and more reliable transport for commuters—in comparison to the minibus taxis who were the kings of the road.

200 cars belonging to Uber drivers were impounded in Cape Town. The reason? In Johannesburg, drivers operate on a chartered licence, while in Cape Town a metered taxi permit is required—and is much more difficult to obtain. But, the real issue is that the metered-taxi industry fears Uber is stealing their business.

Cape Town—South Africa’s most famed tourist destination needs to be able to offer world-class services to its visitors, and these days that means Uber. What’s the first thing any international traveller will do when stepping off a plane? That’s right, call an Uber.

But it’s about so much more than just convenience. The company said: “Uber is having a positive impact on Cape Town by creating more economic opportunity for drivers, providing more choice for consumers, reducing congestion, and drinking and driving. Importantly, Uber brings huge benefits to the small operator looking to enter the market, empowering them through technology to grow a small business in a way that they couldn’t before.”

Eyewitness News (EWN) reported that Premier of the Western Cape Helen Zille says they have started the process of implementing a by-law for the e-hailing industry and that the national government is to amend the National Land Transport Act, to make e-hailing taxis a sub-category of metered taxis. “So in a not-so-distant future I hope we’ll be in a situation where there will be a legal framework for hailing services to be regulated and to be safe for commuters,” said Zille.

So, what does Uber have that metered taxis don’t? A reasonable, no-cash transaction; GPS tracking and accountable safety regulations; and most importantly the people’s vote. Not to mention shutting down Uber would halt technological progress. As someone on Twitter put it: ‘Metred taxis wanting Uber to shut down because they’re driving them out of business is like encyclopaedias trying to shut the Internet down.’