Nightmare on the roads

Nightmare on the roads

MASERU-IT took Tjotji Peete close to 30 minutes to negotiate less than 300 metres in a car, and that nearly cost him his job.
Peete was leaving Khanya Medical Clinic rushing to the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) to pick his boss when he got caught up in Maseru’s treacherous traffic jungle.

“I found him at the gate pacing up and down seemingly furious,” Peete says of his boss’s reaction.
“Immediately after jumping into the car, he asked me that if I am no longer interested in working for him and that I should leave,” says the 30-year-old who now works at a factory in the Maseru West Industrial Area.
Khanya Medical Clinic is situated at the T-junction joining Moshoeshoe Road and Airport Road in Maseru and a stone’s throw from the Central Bank.

“The cars were not moving and there were no police officers to control traffic,” he says.
Peete’s ordeal vividly captures the frustration that drivers in Maseru have to endure in the mornings and during lunchtime and evening rush hours.
Some say the traffic jungle is because cars are cheaper to buy than before and more people are ditching public transport.

Second hand cars from countries such as Japan have been flooding Lesotho due to their relatively low prices that see cars going for as low as M25 000.  
Calls are growing for the government to revamp the road network to match the increase in cars.
Spokeswoman for the Ministry of Public Transport, Ntumeleng Ntšekhe, says “many cars” are being imported from overseas, thereby clogging the roads.

She distanced her ministry from the chaos, saying the ministry is only responsible for issuing permits and licenses and that the Ministry of Trade and Industry deals with the importation of cars.
The Roads Directorate’s Director-General, Seboka Thamae, says there are already plans by the government to increase the capacity of the country’s roads.

He says there are long-term plans to build a by-pass road in the north whose intention is to carry traffic to the north exclusively without interacting with service roads in Maseru.
There is also a long-term plan to have the Southern Express, to cater for traffic from Maseru to the southern parts of the country.

“Both projects are to be done under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP),” Thamae said, adding that the department is embarking on a study on the upgrade of the Kofi Annan Road to minimise the congestion in Maseru.
The hiring of a consultant “is in its final stages” and the study will start “in a month’s time,” he says.

Thamae says there are also plans to embark on validation of the A2 road from the main traffic circle to Ha-Matala.
“The proposed plan is to treat the A2 as a highway such that surrounding businesses are only accessed through service roads. The plan is to make the road a highway that will enable access to service roads,” Thamae says.
 “The design has been completed but there is no funding,” Thamae says.
 City authorities say they are aware of the heavy congestion on Maseru’s roads.

But road users will have to do with the nightmare as the council awaits the resolution of the court case involving companies that are fighting for a multi-million tender to upgrade the Mpilo Boulevard, says Maseru City Council Town Clerk, Moeko Maboee.

The lucrative tender, worth M350 million, has brewed a storm with a construction firm, UNIK Construction dragging the council to the court arguing that the tender process was flawed.
The case continues in court today. Nine companies tendered for the contract to upgrade the boulevard with links, flyover bridges, underpass, exclusive pedestrian bridges and signals.

Former Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, Khothatso Tšooana, told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last year that he was ordered to award the tender to a Chinese businessman who was friends with former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) also intervened to investigate the matter.
“We will be in a position to know how to move forward after the ruling,” Maboee told thepost.
Maboee says the council is also looking at other access roads into the city that could relieve the major routes.

We shall make use of such roads even if such access roads are just gravel, Maboee said, adding that council is aiming at filling potholes on the roads.
The major problem, according to Maboee, is lack of funds.
“As soon as we are financially stable, we will deal with these roads,” he said.

In the meantime, people such as Peete, the Maseru driver who nearly lost his job to the congestion, have to continue to endure the nightmare that has become Maseru’s roads.

Majara Molupe

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