Police caution lockdown law breakers



MASERU – The police have send a strong warning to passengers and taxi operators flouting operational guidelines during the first day of the 21 days of the declared national lockdown to keep citizens safe in fear of a widespread COVID-19 global outbreak.

The lockdown came into effect on March 29 at midnight, following Prime Minister Motsoahae Thabane’s announcement of a national emergency – it ends on April 21. Police Commissioner, Holomo Molibeli, today declared legal measures against public transport operators that are contravening prescribed safety measures meant to avoid the spread of COVID-19 will bear the full might of the law.

This comes after taxi industry officials decried “government and police service’s failure to ensure that the lockdown is implemented as stipulated looking at the many pirate taxis operating during restricted hours, and disinterest of the security agencies in monitoring the situation and ensuring people do what is expected of them during this time.” Maseru Region Taxi Operators (MRTO) spokesperson, Lebohang Moea, had earlier publicly voiced concern that operators continued to ferry passengers to their various destinations beyond stipulated times, even charging them bloated fares – an illegal practice according to guidelines issued by the transport ministry ahead of the lockdown.

He said the said these taxis were also carrying more numbers of passengers than allowed as a step to effect social distancing – a move to limit chances of COVID-19 infection. Guidelines provides that a 4+1 taxi is allowed to take only two passengers, a 10-seater seven passengers while a 15-seater can only transport 10 passengers per trip. Public transport is allowed to operate between 6am and 10 am and between 3pm and 6pm.

Holomo said he was not aware that there were operators violating these guidelines, and promised to ensure that police are around all taxi routes in the Maseru City and its outskirts to monitor the situation. He urged public transport operators and the public to inform him when they notice any dealings that are against the law.

“I urge to people to call me when they see these public transport operators not abiding by the law, there is no need for people to run to radio stations to complain while they could just call me and inform me of the matter. This is not the time for pointing fingers, this is a matter of life and death, therefore let us work together,” he said. He said harsh legal action will also be taken against ordinary citizens who similarly failed to abide by set restrictions.

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