Taxi fare indaba ends in chaos

Taxi fare indaba ends in chaos

MASERU – A crisis meeting between taxi operators and Deputy Transport Minister Tšehlo Ramarou ended in chaos last Thursday.
Ramarou had called the taxi operators to the indaba after they defiantly said they would increase taxi fares from M6 to M15 without the consent of the government. The meeting came after the government said taxi operators had no authority to increase fares with Ramarou’s office plainly saying it would not allow that to happen.

The Ministry of Transport then threatened legal action against taxi operators who would increase fares without the government’s approval.
The Thursday meeting was of two bulls that wanted to ram each other and they could not agree on anything until someone in the audience proposed that the meeting should adjourn.

The taxi operators’ representative, Mathe Khalane, told thepost that they were dissatisfied with how Ramarou addressed the whole issue.
“There was nothing wrong with Tšehlo as a minister chairing our meeting,” Khalane said.
“The only bad thing was that we were shocked to realise that the ministry never approached the Transport Board with our proposal,” he said.
Khalane also said they dismissed the meeting because “instead of getting conclusions the minister was asking us questions”.

“I even made a point of order to dismiss the meeting so that minister could consult the Transport Board about our concerns,” he added.
Khalane said they also want the chairman of the board to be elected by transport stakeholders unlike now when he is an appointee of the minister.
“We want that board appointment to be reviewed as we are not satisfied with it. We want to choose the chairman for ourselves unlike now when the board is chaired by whoever the minister would choose,” Khalane said.
He insisted that on June 1 they are going to charge their own price.
“We are having a regional meeting on Thursday but no matter what the ministry will do we are charging our own prices,” he added.
Ramarou said there is no way public transport owners can be allowed to choose a chairman of their choice because the constitution does not allow that.
“The chairman is appointed by the minister by law so there is no way we can change it by ourselves besides the chairman is the one who captures information discussed then pass it to the minister,” he said. He said he held a meeting with transport owners on Thursday but they could not reach any conclusion in whatever they discussed.

“We met and discussed issues that had been aired through different media houses. It was important for me to call them and listen to them,” he said.
“I was not there to make any ruling but to listen to their grievances.”

Ramarou also said if taxi owners are going to do what is not provided for in the law, it will be a criminal offence and the government will be bound to take drastic measures against them.

“But I think it will not happen because we are in the process of solving the matter,” he added.
He said they have experts that advise the ministry on how to make price increments looking at the economy and other factors.
“Our experts will make recommendations so that decisions are reached without enraging both Basotho and public transport owners,” he added.
He said according to the law prices have to be increased every year “but now that it did not happen we cannot just increase with a lot of money that Basotho cannot afford”.

“We will try to negotiate with them,” he said. “We cannot just make a decision without considering our economy and the poor state of our country and on the other side we cannot deny that owners are in business so we will try to accommodate both Basotho and the owners,” Ramarou said.

Nkheli Liphoto

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