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South Africa’s Violent Uber Wars Are Driven By Deep Economic Anxieties – Fast Company

Zuma’s African National Congress (ANC) continues to pay lip service to radical economic transformation, but little has been done to bolster the economy or equitably distribute national resources, radically or otherwise. Instead, under Zuma’s leadership, the public sector wage bill has skyrocketed, the economy is stagnant, and unemployment has risen to 28%.

All the while, state institutions are being repurposed to consolidate power for Zuma and his ANC party loyalists. Many in South Africa now see the ANC leadership as part of a corrupt power elite, and are losing confidence in the structures of government.

But how is corruption at the highest levels of government and economic inequality affecting the lives of ordinary South Africans? For some of South Africa’s working class and even the upwardly mobile, everyday economic struggles have become a matter of life or death. This tension is evident in the growing violence between metered taxi drivers and Uber drivers.

Under Pressure

South Africa’s taxi industry has seen extreme violence before. The “Uber wars” of 2017 recall for many the “taxi wars” that began in the late apartheid era, where turf wars were fought between taxi associations and individual minibus taxi drivers. During that period, hundreds of people were killed as rival cartels went to war to defend their market share.

A paucity of reliable and inexpensive public transport means that around 65% of South Africa’s low-income commuters depend on shared taxi minibuses, and until recently, most in the middle class tended to drive their own cars, sober or otherwise. But when Uber arrived in South Africa in 2013, things changed dramatically.

Today, metered taxi drivers are arguing that Uber drivers are stealing their business. But many of Uber’s new clientele claim they have long avoided metered taxis on the grounds that they are expensive and unsafe. During our research in South Africa, members of the police told us that middle-class people began using it in such large numbers that the number of drunk-driving charges plunged (as did the revenue traffic police extracted from them).

South Africa’s Violent Uber Wars Are Driven By Deep Economic Anxieties – Fast Company

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