MRTO threatens massive protest



MASERU – Taxi operators have threatened to bring Maseru to a standstill on March 3 in a move meant to arm-twist government to effect measures to remove pirate taxis from national routes.

Pirate taxis currently dominate the transport industry, not only in Maseru but in other districts.

As a result, the legally registered taxis struggle to make business, according to the taxi owners’ associations.

Some owners, it is alleged, are now forced to operate two to three days a week while others have been forced to abandon the industry altogether as it is no longer profitable.

“Most of the unregistered vehicles belong to members of the police and the army and this makes it difficult to get rid of them on the roads,” members of the Maseru Region Transport Organisation (MRTO) have said.

“To try and combat the illegal practice, taxi associations from all the regions of the country have decided to move away from the dedicated bus stops and operate from areas where pirate taxis normally operate from.

“This is done to ensure that all non-registered taxis are out of business on the day,” they said.

To carry out the operation, taxi operators have partnered with relevant stakeholders such as the Maseru City Council (MCC), Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA), the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) and the Traffic Department. “Any pirate taxi that will be seen operating along those areas will be dealt with accordingly,” the MRTO said.

They further charged: “We have tried to deal with the situation for a long time without any luck. Most of these pirate cars belong to members of the police and the army. “So we are afraid of them because they threaten us when we try to deal with them. So we want government to take action and help us to overcome this challenge.”

“Some of our members have literally been forced out of business because of pirate taxis. And, unfortunately, our transport minister does not care about us at all. “We have been reporting some of these issues to him but no action has been taken,” chairman of the MRTO Mokete Jonas said during a media briefing yesterday.

Meanwhile, the taxi operators have further written a letter to the road transport board proposing new taxi fares effective from April 1. Government, however, is reluctant to respond to the request and come up with new fares. While they could not reveal details of the proposed fares, they did confirm however that they will do anything in their power to achieve that what they want.

This, they say, is the only way to keep the industry going. “We have been fighting with the ministry about the increase in fares. And partly, we are doing this because pirate taxis have taken business away from us and nobody is doing anything about it.

“So because of the disputes and misunderstandings, we cannot reveal the exact figures, instead we will wait for them to reveal to the public when they are ready,” said Mathe Khalane from the Mejametalana Central Region.

Taxi fares in Lesotho were last reviewed in 2018 where prices moved from M6 to M7.50 for a mini bus taxis and M8 for 4+1 taxis. Operators, however, had demanded an increase of up to M15.



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