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Shots fired in Uber, taxi clash in Johannesburg finance hub

[JOHANNESBURG] Shots were fired as operators of metered taxis attacked Uber Technologies Inc drivers in Johannesburg's Sandton financial district, intensifying the territorial dispute between workers for the US ride-hailing service and traditional taxi motorists.

One taxi driver was arrested and his vehicle impounded, the city's Metro Police Superintendent Wayne Minnaar said by phone on Friday. Three police officers were injured as they tried to stop the violence, he said.

"We are aware of an incident that took place in Sandton this afternoon involving intimidation and violence against Uber driver-partners," an Uber spokeswoman said in e-mailed comments.

"Authorities were notified and arrests have been made. The threats and intimidation against those who want to use Uber to boost their income is unacceptable."

Uber service has been temporarily suspended in Sandton for the time being, the company's South Africa business said in a twitter posting. The district, where Citigroup Inc, Ernst & Young and UBS Group AG have offices, is Johannesburg's main financial hub. The clash took place outside the area's Gautrain station, part of a rail link between Johannesburg and Pretoria built for the soccer World Cup in 2010.

Leisure Nkuna, 24, needed his right arm bandaged after being hit by stones during a ride to the station from a nearby Hilton hotel, he said. He and his female passenger were forced to flee the vehicle during the assault, he said. Three Citi employees were in another Uber car that was stoned.

Metered taxi operators have objected to competition from Uber in cities around the world, including Paris and Jakarta. French taxi drivers blocked access to the Paris's Roissy and Orly airports and went on strike in June, protesting that some Uber operators didn't have the required license. There have also been violent incidents in the French capital and taxi drivers have burned tires.

In Johannesburg, police had to be called on Monday to protect politician Ismail Vadi after drivers protested against the issuing of operating licenses to their Uber counterparts, according to the News24 website. Uber, which allows passengers to call for rides using a smartphone app, started in South African cities in 2013 and now has about 4,000 drivers.

BLOOMBERG