Uber says many of its Cape Town driver-partners still without operating permits

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APP-based taxi service Uber says that many of its driver-partners in Cape Town still do not have vehicle operating permits and there is no clarity on the status of their permit applications.

The Provincial Regulatory Entity in the Department of Transport and Public Works on Thursday evening approved 201 metered taxi operating licences which were supported by the City of Cape Town. Of those approved applications, 145 were applications from Uber partners.

But Uber says that with more than 1,000 city-supported applications yet to be finalised, many driver-partners “remain stuck in this complex system”.

“The Provincial Regulatory Entity outcome is a step forward in the interim licensing solution, for driver-partners, and we hope that the remainder of the permits will be issued as a matter of urgency,” Uber spokeswoman, Samantha Allenberg, said on Friday.

She said that given the City’s support for over 1,000 permits, the company expects a balanced and measured approach to enforcement until the backlog of applications has been cleared.

Last week Uber accused law enforcement agencies in Cape Town of targeting its partner drivers in a blitz that has resulted in more than 200 vehicles being impounded since the beginning of the year. The company blamed the clampdown on its drivers not having permits for metered taxis. In Cape Town, Uber drivers are required to obtain metered taxi permits to operate legally, even though the vehicles do not have meters. In Johannesburg they are given chartered licences.

The Uber partner drivers who have been granted licences can now operate legally pending amendments to the National Land Transport Act to accommodate the so-called e-hailing industry. Cape Town is also working on a new by-law meant to create a legal framework for e-hailing.

Siphesihle Dube, the spokesman for Western Cape Transport MEC Donald Grant, said on Friday that the Provincial Regulatory Entity had yet to receive the other applications. He said the regulatory body can only adjudicate the applications it has in fact received.

“We have not received ‘1,000+ city supported applications’ for metered taxi operating licences as the online platform in question claims. There is no ‘backlog of applications’…that needs to be cleared,” Mr Dube said.

The Transport Department says that in supporting applications for operating licences the planning authority, in this case the City of Cape Town, must indicate whether there is a need for the service on the routes or areas in terms of its integrated transport plan (ITP). The planning authority must then direct the Provincial Regulatory Entity to grant the operating licences and also make the appropriate recommendations with regard to conditions that must be attached to the operating licence.

Cape Town mayoral committee member for transport Brett Herron said on Friday that the City will continue work with Uber and its operators to ensure that they make their licence applications. He welcomed the granting of the 145 permits.

“This service has the potential to raise the quality of service in our city and to make on-demand transport services more commuter-focused and commuter-friendly,” Mr Herron said.

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