MASERU – Taxi associations have warned the government to ensure that public transporters abide by regulations prescribed under the lockdown or risk a total shut down of the taxi industry. Lesotho Taxi Association Public Relations Officer Lebohang Moea said there are pirating cars that are not abiding with the lockdown directives and there is no legal action taken against them.
He said the said taxis are taking passengers to town after 10 am, which is illegal as per the rules announced by ministry of transport. In addition, he said, they overload their vehicles exposing passengers to the risk of contracting and spreading COVID- 19. During such time intervals, he said, security forces that are expected to monitor the situation are nowhere to be seen. A 4+1 is allowed to take two passengers, a 10-seater taxis should carry seven passengers while a 15-seater is only allowed to take 10 passengers. Public transport is allowed to operate between 6am and 10am; and between 3pm and 6pm.
Moea said after they discovered that there are pirating cars that are operating illegally, they approached the police headquarters to inform the police only to find that police were neither aware of the permits given to public transport as authorization to operate nor the arrangement that they are supposed to be monitoring the town. Police said they had not yet received an order on the matter. He said despite the challenges they face with pirate operators, they will not increase the number of public transport operators but would rather reduce it to control the spread of COVID-19.
“We will in no way increase the number of cars operating. People should understand that a lockdown is not done for the benefit of certain people but for everyone. “What will happen is that the operators will rotate, taking turns until all cars in a route have had a chance to operate during the lockdown,” he said. Police commissioner Holomo Molibeli responding to the taxi industry’s plea, said he is not aware of the situation but promised to address it with immediate effect.
Police, he said, will take legal measures against public transporters that is contravening prescribed safety measures meant to avoid the spread of COVID. Holomo said limiting of public transport was an emergency call that was never planned beforehand therefore some mistakes are bound to happen during its implementation. He, however, noted he will order the security forces to monitor towns and villages and bring to book whoever does not abide by the legal notice No 26 of 2020 declaring a state of emergency that called for the lockdown.
Molibeli urged public transport operators and the public to inform him when they notice any activities that are against the law. “I urge people to call me when they see these public transporters not adhering to the law, there is no need for people to run to radio stations while they could just call me and inform me about the matter. “This is not the time for pointing fingers, it is a matter of life and death, therefore let us work together,” he said. He said harsh legal action will also be taken against people who do sit in bars and drink beer during the lockdown.