Covid-19 restrictions bite taxi operators

Covid-19 restrictions bite taxi operators

. . . as operators threaten to pull out

MASERU-TAXI operators this week threatened to withdraw their vehicles from the road from next Thursday as the Covid-19 restrictions on the industry begin to bite.

The Maseru Region Taxi Operators (MRTO) chairman, Mokete Jonas, told a press conference on Tuesday that they are now struggling to stay afloat because of restrictions triggered by the Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
“We have received frustrating news from the government that taxi associations will not be helped like other sectors during this difficult time,” Jonas said.

He said their biggest gripe was the operating times issued by the government.
Jonas said they were told to operate between 8am and 4pm with factory workers being ferried between 6am and 7pm.
“The time allocations to ferry passengers are causing a lot of confusion between us and the police,” he said.

He said the other challenge was the recent decision by the government to hike the price for number plates at the Department of Traffic from M60 to M400.

“Fitness fees have soared from M90 to M360,” he said.
He said they were expecting the government to meet them half-way during this difficult time.

A 4+1 taxi now takes just three people, minibus carries nine people while a bus has reduced its passengers by 30 people in a bid to ensure there is no crowding in vehicles.

A Sprinter has slashed its carrying capacity by nine people.
Jonas said they thought the government would grant them a tax reprieve for at least three months which was never done.
“We are being forced to (subsidise) the public with our own vehicles,” he said.
He said their efforts to negotiate with the government on their problems have been fruitless.
Their plan is to take the usual number of passengers starting next Tuesday when the current gazette falls off.
Jonas said if the government does not assist them, they “are going to do it by force”.

He said if the government does not allow them to take normal capacity they will then inflate prices so that they can stay in business.
“Basotho should know that we will stop transport (services) on the 21st May 2020,” Jonas said.
Another MRTO member, Teboho Kahlolo, said they have suffered massive losses during the past few weeks.

He said the government forgets that taxi owners have employees who are paid at the end of every month.
Kahlolo said a taxi takes 15 passengers but now six have been blocked leaving them with just nine.

“We lose M45 on one trip if it takes eight passengers,” he said.
For a day, that translates to a loss of M360 and for a month the losses jump to a massive M64 800.
Kahlolo said on Sprinters they will lose M145 800 in just six months while transporting people from Maseru to Quthing district.

He said buses will lose M594 000 over a period of six months.
He argued that during these difficult times the Lesotho Revenue Authority and the government still expect them to pay their taxes regardless of the losses they have incurred.
“Now taxi operators are united and will fight for their rights,” Kahlolo said.

Nkheli Liphoto

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