Internet ride-sharing service Uber has notched up over 13 000 signatures on Friday as part of a petition targeted at raising “awareness” over its permit problems in Cape Town.
Over 200 Uber cars have been impounded in Cape Town this year because drivers of the service haven’t had the necessary metered taxi permits.
South African Uber officials have previously questioned whether a metered licence is appropriate for the Internet ride-sharing service as it differs from traditional metered taxi operations.
Nevertheless, Uber says it has been in talks with the city and Western Cape officials since early 2014 on a clear route to licensing.
Drivers, which partner with Uber and are not employed by the Internet service, are expected to apply for these permits with the city, which then forwards them on to provincial authorities for final approval.
But Uber says that despite its driver-partners undergoing this process, not a single licence has been awarded in the last six months by the province. Uber says this process typically should take a few weeks.
Subsequently, Uber has kicked off a petition this week to drum up public support for its service.
“We wanted to show the city and the province that Capetonians really want Uber, that they need Uber,” Samantha Allenberg, Uber’s communications associate for Africa, said.
“There is a need and there is actually demand for this service in the city,” Allenberg said.
She said Uber is not commenting at this stage on what exactly it plans to do with the petition.
However, she said that because the petition is online, it would make it easy for relevant authorities to take a look at it.
“It’s less about pressure; I would say it’s more about awareness,” Allenberg said.
“This process is something that should take a couple of weeks, but it has taken over six months for our driver-partners.
“Riders want the service; drivers want the service. The fact that it’s taking over six months is not acceptable,” Allenberg said.
Meanwhile, the Western Cape provincial government on Thursday released a statement on driver permits in the region.
“The Provincial Regulatory Entity (PRE) in the department of transport and public works is currently considering 343 applications for operating licences which have been supported by the City of Cape Town, 201 of which are applications from Uber partners,” said the province.
“The PRE will meet next week to finalise its decision.
Regarding the current batch, the PRE must apply itself to each and every application. This is as important for commuter safety as it is for the responsible management of the meter taxi industry. It is essential that operations within the industry are regularised to promote fairness and to avoid conflict,” added the province.
Uber’s partner drivers have come under particular regulatory pressure in Cape Town as opposed to other South African cities.
In Johannesburg, Uber partner drivers have chartered service licences which are less onerous to obtain than metered taxi licences.
Demand for Uber in South Africa has also been surging as company said last week that there have been over 2m local rides so far this year, double that of 2014.
Cape Town is not the first city in the world where Uber has resorted to petitions amid regulatory pressure.
In January, Uber launched an online petition in Chicago in a bid to put pressure on city officials there to allow UberX drivers to pick people up from O’Hare and Midway Airports.
In June, Uber also launched an online petition calling on San Francisco local government officials to allow drivers to work on the city’s Market Street. This online petition, though, was reportedly hacked. — Fin24