Two Ugandan tuk-tuk taxi owners are now living in fear of their lives after their vehicles were burnt to ashes during separate incidents of alleged taxi feuding in Melville, Joburg on June 26 and July 10.
Isaac Ssendiyose (29), a Ugandan tuk-tuk taxi owner and driver, said he has been subjected to death threats from rival metered taxi drivers before the incident occurred.
He said the feud is a result of consistent threats from rival metered taxi operators who are also based in Melville.
"A man in a white metered taxi came up to me two days before my tuk-tuk was burnt. He told me to stop doing business here (Melville) or else something bad will happen," Ssendiyose said.
"I immediately told him that I won't stop, because it's a free market and this is my only source of income."
He has been living in South Africa for five years, and relies on his business for income.
Ssendiyose said they were being targeted because the tuk-tuk is cheaper and is the preferred mode for students, who cannot afford metered taxi fares.
"I honesty thought I was gonna die. Three men came up to me with a bottle of petrol and poured it on top of my tuk-tuk, and burnt it while I was inside," said a visibly shaken Ssendiyose.
"When I realised the smell of petrol and flames, I ran for my life. One of them ran after me and threatened to shoot me.
"I was terrified to operate for days, And I still fear for my life."
William Maitsa (34), another tuk-tuk operator who also hails from Uganda, said the attacks were strongly linked to xenophobia.
"We are the only ones being attacked (foreigners). This is not only about business, there are bigger issues at play," he said.
Maitsa claimed his vehicle was also burnt in plain sight of bystanders.
"It all happened so fast. Two men came running towards my tuk-tuk, dragged me out of it and started burning its roof," he said.
"The sad thing is that all this happened in full sight of people, and they all just stood there and watched."
He also added that the incident comes after a series of threats from metered taxi drivers to which he paid little attention.
"I was threatened while picking up a consumer just outside Campus Square. Two men in a taxi said they will kill me if I don't stop operating," he said.
The metered taxi association known as Masakhane Taxi Association declined to comment, with one of its drivers saying he did not know anything about tuk-tuks being burnt.
Sophiatown police station lieutenant colonel Julia Claassen confirmed that a case of malicious damage to property had been opened but no arrests had been made so far. "Police investigations are ongoing and we encourage the public to come forth with information," she said.