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Deadlock as taxi owners dig in on fare hike

 ’Marafaele Mohloboli

TALKS between the Ministry of Transport and taxi owners broke down on Wednesday after the two parties failed to agree on the agenda.

The Minister of Transport and Works, Prince Maliehe, had called for the talks in an effort to reach an agreement over the proposed taxi fare increases which have set the two parties on a collision course.

The taxi owners have given notice that they will increase local commuter fares from M6, 50 to M15 on 1 June 2018.

However, the government has warned that the move is illegal as the Traffic Board is the only body that is legally empowered to effect any increases.

One of the leaders of the taxi association, Mathe Khalane said they were disappointed by the non-appearance of Mr Maliehe despite the fact that he had called the meeting.

Mr Khalane said they were “shocked and disappointed that after being called by the minister,” they were only to be addressed by his deputy, Ts’ehlo Ramarou in the absence of the Traffic Board.

“What was even more appalling was the fact that the agenda was actually about cross border issues.”

Mr Khalane said he subsequently proposed that the meeting be aborted as “it was not well planned and would therefore be fruitless”.

Last week the taxi owners announced that they will hike fares to M15 and the move was immediately branded “unlawful” by the government.

“According to the Legal Notice No. 129 of 2004 Road Transport Regulations, the Traffic Board is the only body with powers to increase the fares, not the taxi owners,” said the Principal Secretary of the ministry of Transport and Works, Mothabathe Hlalele.

“No commuter should pay the suggested fare until the Traffic Board has approved them.

“It is quite surprising that today the same taxi owners who used to say that there was no rule of law in Lesotho and got involved in demonstrations, are suddenly the ones who are willing to break the very law and raise fares against the regulations.

“If they hike the tariffs unilaterally, they will be committing an offence because the regulations are very clear that there has to be a board seating, and all sectors should be taken into consideration,” Mr Hlalele said.

However, the taxi operators are digging in with Mr Khalane telling the Sunday Express that “our decision is final”.

“We are ready to engage the government only if they will allow us to raise the tariffs higher than the proposed M15. Besides that, we are unshakeable that as of 1 June, the local taxi fare shall be M15. Otherwise we are ready to go to the courts of law,” Mr Khalane said, adding the hike was justified on the basis that the last times they increased fares was in 2012.

“We will increase the fares with or without the approval of the ministry and the board. All prices are being increased in other sectors so why not in the taxi industry?

“We also want the Traffic Board dissolved as it does not serve us as we are often outvoted in the decision-making process.

“We have been talking to the government for the past five years through the board and it has failed us dismally.”

However, Mr Hlalele insisted that the taxi operators were part of the Traffic Board and such await its decision.


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