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Last nail in taxi industry’s coffin



MASERU-ONCE the favourite of many aspiring businesspeople, the passenger minibus business is now a shadow of its former self, with smaller vehicles taking over the roads.

Only a decade ago, many people looked to the business as a viable retirement option.
Basotho men who would have retired from South African mines would use their savings to buy minibuses to venture into the passenger transport business. Then someone introduced the 4+1 and the game changed.

The 4+1s quickly became the preferred mode of transport, presenting passengers with convenience in terms of time as it carries fewer passengers and makes a few stops along the way.
The flood of cheap imports worsened the situation for minibus operators as most people could afford to buy a 4+1 and flood the roads.

Some even sold their minibuses to buy 4+1s. Civil servants like police officers, soldiers and teachers joined the party, most operating the vehicles without proper documentation.
In some villages like Koalabata, Tsoapo-le-Bolila and Qoaling minibuses are now a thing of the past.

Matšeli Qekisi is among those desperate to exit the minibus industry eight years after joining it.
Qekisi, who joined the industry as a driver’s assistant, has been a rank inspector since 2018.

“There is no money in this industry anymore, Covid-19 worsened the situation,” Qekisi said.
According to Qekisi, who is an inspector for the Ha-Pita, Semphetenyane and Likolong route, more than 70 minibuses plied the route before.
Now, only about 30 are still operating on the route.

“Due to business nose-diving some owners sold their minibuses, while some taxis are stuck at home in need of repairs,” he said.
Over half of the conductors or assistant drivers, he said, also had to be sent home as previous Covid-19 regulations only allowed taxis to carry a maximum of nine passengers.

The daily platform fee of M20 from which his salary is paid, has also dwindled. Some owners are unable to pay platform fees.
“Times are tough, having to fuel the car, pay a driver, service it and pay the platform fee, there really isn’t much that the owner gets,” he said.

Katleho Sehole, a taxi conductor for the last four years, has resorted to hawking fruits and cigarettes when he was retrenched due to Covid-19.
His dream of buying a 4+1 like some of his colleagues has been shattered.
Sehole, a father of two, said even before Covid-19 things were already bad.
“We did not have socks money (money hidden from your boss for your personal use) like we used to and with Covid-19 socks money is history,” Sehole said.

He said previously they would fuel the car, keep the owners’ daily amount (Mocheko) and take the rest for personal use.
“It is with that money that we bought clothes or saved, that money doesn’t exist anymore,” he said.
Most minibus owners can no longer afford to pay the M50 daily wage to employees, he said.

“Some of my former colleagues during this time would take home from M20 to M50 a day. How is one supposed to feed a family with that amount? Most of us are just waiting for borders to open and maybe we will get something better on the other side of the border,” he said.

Hawking, he said, is also challenging as almost everyone who lost their jobs has joined the ranks of vendors.
“I am out of options, I got mouths to feed. The only comforting thing is that the little I make is mine.”

Lereko Qhoali drives a minibus to Lithabaneng.
He said the industry was already struggling and Covid-19 was the final nail in the coffin.
Qhoali said a taxi would make a measly M120 a day due to worsening conditions.

“From this money, there is M20 platform fee, there is fuel, there is M20 or M30 for the taxi assistant and a driver to pay for those who earn daily,” Qhoali said.
“At the end of the day there is nothing to give to the owner and yet he must pay the driver and maintain the car.”

Tseko Tseko, a 4+1 driver, was hoping this would be his last year as an employee as his two year employment working under an arrangement popularly known as Totomeng was coming to end this year.
Under the Totomeng arrangement, a driver agrees to give the vehicle owner a certain amount daily for a certain period. In exchange, the car becomes his after the agreed period.

“My boss wanted M300 per day after fueling his car,” Tseko said.
“I would work hard to surpass the daily limit so that I could make myself money because in this arrangement I did not have a salary,” he said.
Because of Covid-19, he said, he thinks he will have to work for an additional year.

“It is a daily struggle. There are too many pirates owned by law enforcement officers.”
“Police demand bribes from us daily because we are not servicing or renewing licences or disks due to lack of funds, he said.
“And then there is the Iveco (Mobile Traffic Court). It is a nightmare working on these streets.”

Leluma Maluke joined the taxi industry as a driver in 2013.
After three years, Maluke bought a 15-seater minibus from his boss for M27 000 in 2017.
Excited and ready to double his work ethic, the completion of the tarred road in Tsoapo-le-Bolila halted his plans as the avalanche of 4+1s hit the route.

By the end of 2018 there was no money to be made.
“Passengers refused to board our minibuses. They now preferred 4+1s,” said Maluke.
“We would only get passengers in the morning when taking textile workers to work and in the evenings when they came back home,” he said.
Even today there are no minibuses on that route.
With maintenance costs pilling, fuel, paying a taxi assistant, Maluke decided to get employed and drive long distance taxis with the hope that things would be better.

“The situation there was worse, I only worked for six months.”
He later managed to buy a 4+1. 
“That was when life improved,” he said, adding that he would take home an average of M300 a day.
COVID-19 restrictions have however become a new challenge, with his income dwindling to as low as M100 a day.

“Sometimes I went home empty-handed having worked only for fuel, especially during the week before month end.”
He said even though they are back to carrying a “full load”, the situation is still dire.

“People do not have money, even when we were only allowed to carry three passengers we would still go to town without any passengers.”
Lebohang Moea, Chairman of the Maseru Route Transport Operators (MRTO), said many jobs have been lost in the sector due to a combination of COVID-19 and the flooding of smaller vehicles on the road.
Moea said there are over 9 000 taxis and 4+1s in Maseru alone and over 18 000 employees.

Despite the new regulations for the purple level that allowed taxis to fill their vehicles as before, many have already gone under.
“They do not have the means to re-employ workers. During Covid-19 most drivers and their assistants were sent home, simply because there was not enough money,” Moea said.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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Doctor tampers with corpse



THE Mokhotlong Government Hospital has agreed to pay M200 000 as compensation to the husband of a deceased patient after a doctor unlawfully tampered with the corpse.

There is a deed of settlement between the hospital and Jacob Palime, the deceased woman’s husband.

Jacob Palime rushed to the High Court in Tšifa-li-Mali last year after the hospital failed to explain why the doctor had tampered with his wife’s corpse at a private mortuary behind his back.

His wife’s body had been taken to the Lesotho Funeral Services.
Palime lives in Phahameng in Mokhotlong.

In his court papers, Palime was demanding M500 000 in compensation from the hospital “for unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with” his rituals and rights over his dead wife.

He informed the court that his wife died in September 2020 at Mokhotlong Hospital.

“All requisite documentation pertaining to her release to Lesotho Funeral Services were effected and ultimately the deceased was accordingly transferred to the mortuary,” Palime said.

The court heard that Palime’s family was subsequently informed about the wife’s death.

The family however learnt that one doctor, acting in his professional capacity, went to the mortuary the next day and tampered with the corpse.

The doctor subsequently conducted certain tests on the corpse without the knowledge of family members.

Palime said their attempts to get an explanation from the hospital as to the purpose of the tests and the name of the doctor had failed to yield results.

“It remained questionable and therefore incomprehensible as to what actually was the purpose or rationale behind conducting such anonymous and secret tests,” he said.

Palime told the court that the whole thing left him “in an unsettled state of mind for a long time”.

He said his family, which has its traditions and culture rooted in the respect for their departed loved ones, regards and considers Mokhotlong Hospital’s conduct as an unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with his rituals and rights over his deceased spouse.

“This is more-so because the hospital had all the opportunity to have conducted any or such alleged tests immediately upon demise of the deceased while still within its area of jurisdiction and not after her release to the mortuary,” he said.

Palime said despite incessant demands, the hospital has failed, refused, ignored and neglected to cooperate with him “to amicably solve this unwarranted state of affairs”.

Palime told the court that there were no claims against the Lesotho Funeral Service as they had cooperated and compensated him for wrongly allowing the doctor to perform tests on the corpse without knowledge or presence of one of the family members.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Villagers whipped as police seize guns



Dozens of villagers in Ha-Rammeleke in Khubelu, Mokhotlong, were on Monday night rounded up and beaten with sticks and whips by the police during an operation to seize illegal guns.

The villagers told thepost that they heard one man crying out for help saying his wife was sick. And when they rushed to his house, they found the police waiting for them.

The police had stormed the man’s house and ordered him to “cry for help” to lure men from the village.

The men and women were then frog-marched outside the village where the police assaulted the men with sticks, whips, and kicked them.

One man said when he arrived at the house, he found other villagers who were now surrounded by armed police.

“At first I thought they were soldiers but later picked up that they were SOU (Special Operations Unit) members,” he said.

He said they were subjected to severe torture.

“They beat us with sticks at the same time demanding guns from us,” he said.

The police and soldiers also raided other nearby villages in Khubelu area but in Ha-Rammeleke villagers say they identified only police from the Special Operations Unit (SOU).

Several villagers who spoke to thepost asked for anonymity for fear of retribution.

This was the second time within a month that the security forces have raided the villages in search of illegal guns after a spate of gory murders in the areas.

The murders are perpetrated by famo music gangs who are fighting over illegal gold mining in South Africa.

The first raid was on Wednesday preceding Good Friday.

Villagers say a group of armed soldiers stormed the place in the wee hours collecting almost every one to the chief’s place.

“We were woken-up by young soldiers who drove us to the chief’s place,” one resident of Ha-Rammeleke said.

When they arrived at the chief’s home all hell broke loose.

A woman told thepost that they were split into two groups of women and men.

Later, women were further split into two groups of the elderly and younger ones.

She said the security officers assaulted the men while ordering the elderly women to ululate.

Young women were ordered to run around the place like they were exercising.

She said the men were pushed into a small hut where they were subjected to further torture.

A man who was among the victims said the army said they should produce the guns and help them identify the illegal miners.

He said this happened after one man in their village was fatally shot by five unknown men in broad daylight.

He said the men who killed the fellow villager had their faces covered with balaclavas and they could not see who they were.


The villagers chased them but they could not get close to them because they were armed with guns.

“We were armed with stones while those men were armed with guns,” he said.

“They fired a volley of bullets at us and we retreated,” he said.

The murdered man was later collected by the police.

The army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola, confirmed that soldiers stormed Khubelu area in response to the rampant lawlessness of unlicensed guns.

Lt Col Lekola said their presence in the area followed two incidents of shootings where one man was fatally shot and a child sustained serious gunshot wounds.

“There were reports everywhere, even on the radios, that things were out of hand in Khubelu,” he said.

He said in just a day they managed to collect six guns that were in wrong hands together with more than 100 rounds (bullets) in an operation dubbed Deuteronomy 17.

These bullets included 23 rounds of Galil rifle.

Lt Col Lekola maintained that their operation was successful because they managed to collect guns from wrong hands.

He said they are doing this in line with the African Union principle of ‘silencing the guns’.

He said it is an undeniable fact that statistics of people killed with guns is disturbing.

“We appeal to these people to produce these unlicensed guns,” Lt Col Lekola said.

Lt Col Lekola said they could not just watch Basotho helplessly as they suffered.

He said some people are seen just flaunting their guns.

“They fear no one,” he said.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala, said he was aware of the operation in Mokhotlong but did not have further details.

Majara Molupe

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Magistrate saves WILSA boss



A Maseru magistrate, Nthabiseng Moopisa, this week stayed the criminal prosecution of Advocate ’Mamosa Mohlabula who is accused of tax evasion, money laundering and corruption.

In her application Advocate Mohlabula, who is the director of Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), said the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) should not charge her pending finalisation of her tax evasion case.

Advocate Mohlabula is out on bail after she was formally charged with tax evasion in July last year.

She told Magistrate Moopisa that the DPP, Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, was wrong to have agreed with the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to bring charges against her.

“In my viewpoint, the DCEO cannot be heard to charge me in relation to matters already seized with this Honourable Court,” she said in an affidavit.

She also said there is a pending civil case in the High Court in which the DCEO’s abuse of power is referenced, saying the precise way the case is handled will depend “on the way an alleged offence comes to the light”.

“Before that pending case is finalised, DCEO has no jurisdiction to detail me to court over isolated phenomenon of tax evasion and or over grievances of former employees of WILSA,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula was charged together with the WILSA’s chief accounting officer.

She argued that it was WILSA that was being investigated, not individuals, further saying that was “a significant safeguard that the DCEO was impartial from an objective viewpoint”.

“To exclude any legitimate doubt in this respect the DCEO returned the items it seized from WILSA,” she said.

“This was a realistic and practical step towards administering justice and to avoid premature embarrassment to the management of WILSA.”

She said the Board of Trustees of WILSA were sent briefing notes which in certain respects reflected that the DCEO returned the properties of WILSA without warning them that they were suspects.

“In any event, we proceeded to fashion our arguments before the High Court. There was, and could be, no evidence to back up the decision of the DCEO to apply for the search warrant,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula said before they took the matter to the High Court, she cooperated with the DCEO and it conducted an inquiry into the alleged crimes.

“Now that the matter is pending before the High Court, there is no more reason for the DCEO to remand me before the pending cases are finalised,” she said.

Staff Reporter

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