Three vehicles torched in long-running South African taxi war

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – One Uber vehicle and two other taxis were torched in South Africa’s main business district on Thursday night in a feud over fares, but no one was injured, Uber and police said on Friday.

The vehicles were set alight in the wealthy Sandton district near the Gautrain station, a popular pick-up point for taxis where previous attacks on Uber vehicles have taken place. It was not clear who torched the vehicles.

Uber [UBER.UL] drivers around the world have faced threats and protests from regular taxi operators, who say cheap fares from Uber drivers are forcing them out of business.

“All the drivers of the cars escaped unharmed. It is suspected that the incident is related to the ongoing fight between the metered taxis and the Ubers,” police spokesman Captain Mavela Masondo said.

A fourth car had its back window smashed in, he said.

On Friday, police officers patrolled the street outside the Gautrain station, which is opposite the Reuters offices.

Samantha Allenberg, Uber’s communications head for Africa, said only one of the torched vehicles belonged to Uber.

One of the torched vehicles was likely from a different ride-hailing service, Allenberg said.

“We really need the government to do more here. The violence and intimidation is simply unacceptable,” she said.

Uber has met the minister of transport and law enforcement agencies several times over similar incidents, she said.

Footage of the burning vehicles circulated on social media.

Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi said those behind the violence and intimidation would face the law.

More than 6,000 vehicles use the e-hailing Uber application to find customers in South Africa, where the service has grown swiftly as public transport has not kept up with the rising population in sprawling cities.

Uber operates in more than 600 cities and has faced protests in France, Brazil and Hungary, and Uber drivers have been threatened or attacked in Kenya, Costa Rica, and Australia.

Reporting by TJ Strydom; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Mark Potter

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