Massive taxi strike looms

Massive taxi strike looms

MASERU – TAXI operators in Maseru are threatening a massive strike to pressure the government to honour its promise to hire their vehicles.
The Maseru Taxi Operators’ Association is accusing Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s coalition government of hiring only 12 cars instead of the 100 it undertook to lease from taxi operators.
The association also complains that even those 12 whose cars have been hired are yet to be paid. The strike is scheduled to take place on November 29, according to the association’s letter to the government.

The Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Motena Tšolo, received the operators’ letter yesterday but said she was not yet ready to comment on it.
“I am not in a position to answer the letter as it only arrived at my office this afternoon at 3pm,” Tšolo said.
Tšolo said she will wait for the ministry’s lawyers to respond to the letter.
“I do not even know what to say about it now”.

The association wrote the letter through their lawyer, Advocate Letuka Molati. In the letter Adv Molati said during its cabinet sitting on October 10, 2019, the government reiterated its commitment to empower Basotho but has not done anything. He also said on March 16 last year the Ministry of Finance explained that it would use large tenders to help local businesses grow.

The first tender under this policy was the government fleet tender.
“In the event that the client’s demands are not met, the client shall embark upon the biggest public demonstration and procession never seen in Maseru since the 4×4 coalition government rule,” Advocate Molati wrote.

Advocate Molati said he will file an urgent case in the High Court on behalf of his client.
“The processes are underway and the client shall stop only if its demands are met,” Advocate Molati further said.

He said his clients are also concerned that the government has reneged on its pledge to give preference to those already in the transport business, the disadvantaged, the disabled groups and the youths.
Advocate Molati said “in the interim we expect that client members’ 12 vehicles be paid in respect of the four months for vehicles they laid idle since they were received by the government”.

“Yet the client’s members are paying monthly installments from their own pocket,” he said. The threats by the taxi operators could be a reflection of the growing frustration with the coalition government which is accused of wasting scarce resources on international trips while the economy tanks.
The government owes more than M1 billion to suppliers, some of which have reportedly closed or are on the verge of shutting down.
Unemployment continues to surge and some critical government projects have stalled.

Itumeleng Khoete

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