‘Police, soldiers  fanning taxi chaos’

‘Police, soldiers fanning taxi chaos’

MASERU-TRANSPORT Minister Keketso Sello says the problems in the taxi industry have been caused by some police officers and soldiers who are operating unregistered taxis in Maseru.
Sello was speaking at a press conference in Maseru in response to a taxi industry strike that almost became violent on Tuesday.
“We are aware that some of the vehicles are owned by the police and the army officers and that makes it difficult for them to enforce the law,” Sello said.

He said drivers of such pirate taxis even break traffic laws with impunity knowing that their conflicted bosses will not take any action against them.
“My appeal is that penalties should be tough for such security officers’ involved,” he said.
He said owners of registered vehicles are running losses while the unregistered ones roam everywhere in search of passengers.

Sello said the police “should be aware that they are being closely watched on the matter (and) therefore they should stop”.
He said the illegal taxi owners claim they are doing it because the ministry delays in processing their permits.
“But that is not a valid reason because there are steps to be followed for one to get a licence,” Sello said.

Police spokesperson, Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, said the police do not respond to a minister’s criticism or opinion.
“We are going to release a press release soon about the allegations,” he said.
Taxi operators went on strike on Tuesday to press the government to clamp down on illegal taxi operators. The strike triggered chaos in Maseru.
The taxi operators burnt car tyres on the roads until the police’s water cannons doused the flames.

They refused to disperse even when the police shot rubber bullets and teargas at them.
Passengers were dropped at the main traffic circle in Maseru by the drivers regardless of where they were going.
There were no cars transporting people to town on the Main South One Road.
People were forced to walk their way to town from Ha-Matala while others got hikes in private vehicles.

A team of cabinet ministers and MPs had to go to the Matala circle where the taxi operators had blocked the road, burning tyres on the road, to calm them down.
The chairman of the Maseru Region and Transport Operators (MRTO), Mokete Jonas, said that they are still in talks with seven ministers regarding the strike.
“If we reach an agreement, we will stop the strike,” Jonas said.

He said they were confident that the matter will be resolved amicably after the minister agreed with their view that some police officers and soldiers were conflicted since they are operating pirate taxis.

Jonas said they are also aware of the impact the strike would have on passengers.
A Lithabaneng taxi driver, Thabo Folene, said that he has been a driver for the past four years.
However, he said that since his arrival in the industry, the income he has been generating has been declining over the years.

“I used to make at least M600 a day but now things have changed for the worst as I now only manage to cash around M150-M250.”
He said that the decreasing amount put him in trouble with his boss as he thought he was stealing his money.
“Every time I did not make enough, it used to affect my salary as he decreased it,” he said.

Foleni said that he has been dealing with a dwindling salary until his boss decided to sell the taxi.
According to him, the chances of their outcries being heard are very slim.
“This high rate of unemployment plays a very (big) role in this,” he said.

“Yes, people buy cars almost every day and the least they should get is licencing if they indeed want to be part of our business,” he added.
A taxi owner, Bokang Lesenya of Kolo, said that the presence of pirate cars had negatively affected his business.

“I used to make M10 000 per month but now the amount has gone down to M6 000.”
He said that the situation was getting worse every day as there is no longer a difference between registered and unregistered car as both parties feel they are entitled to trade.
“This has been going on for some time now and those responsible should attend to the matter urgently,” he said.
“If only we could get the justice we deserve, things would be ok,” he said.

’Mapule Motsopa & Nkheli Liphoto

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